An inaugural Olympic Esports Games is planned by the IOC ©Getty Images

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has used his speech at the Opening Ceremony of the Session here to launch an inaugural Olympic Esports Games.

Bach also urged a change of mindset to exploit the opportunities of artificial intelligence (AI).

He discussed the increasing prominence of esports within the Olympic Movement, including the first Olympic Esports Week in Singapore earlier this year.

Bach wants the recently-established Esports Commission led by International Cycling Union and French National Olympic and Sports Committee President David Lappartient to explore the creation of an "Olympic Esports Games".

"This was a promising start, but it is just that - a start," Bach said.

"It is like in any sport - after the promising start, the real race still lies ahead. 

"To compete successfully in this race, I have asked our new IOC Esports Commission to study the creation of the Olympic Esports Games."

A target has not been set for the launch of the Olympic Esports Games nor further details announced about its format, but reports on IOC Commissions' activities are scheduled for the first day of the Session tomorrow.

Olympic Esports Week followed on from the online-only Olympic Virtual Series launched in 2021.

The IOC has hailed its Olympic Esports Week as a success, pointing to 500,000 unique participants in the wider Olympic Esports Series, more than six million views on live channels and the attendance of more than 130 participants across 10 events in Singapore.

It faced some criticism, however, from fans for the inclusion of titles such as Tic Tac Bow which were not considered esports and omitting those such as Dota 2, League of Legends and Counter-Strike.

IOC President Thomas Bach believes its
IOC President Thomas Bach believes its "crystal clear position is gaining more and more respect in the esports community" ©Getty Images

Bach has consistently warned that games perceived to glorify violence will not be welcome, and claimed today its approach to esports is increasingly popular.

"There are three billion people playing esports and gaming around the world," he said.

"It is estimated that over 500 million of them are interested specifically in esports, which includes virtual sports and sport simulations. 

"What is even more relevant to us: a majority of them are under the age of 34.

"This is why we took the strategic decision to engage with esports in a holistic way. 

"We chose an approach that would allow us to be active in the esports space while staying true to our values that have guided us for over a century. 

"With respect to esports, our values are and remain the red line that we will not cross. 

"Our crystal clear position is gaining more and more respect in the esports community."

Bach had earlier addressed opportunities and challenges provided by AI, including part of his speech at the beginning he later revealed was generated using the technology when he discussed the future of the Olympic Games as a "compelling fusion of tradition and progress".

"Our continued success depends on how we embrace the ever accelerating development of digital technology and in particular AI", he said.

"This makes our Olympic Agenda 2020 imperative 'change or be changed' even more urgent."

Bach outlined areas in which AI could "revolutionise" sport, including creating individualised training plans for athletes, refereeing and judging, organising the Olympic Games, broadcasting and spectator experience.

"If we are starting this discussion now, we can still contribute to shape this AI future for sport," Bach insisted.

"As we did with Olympic Agenda, we can change before we are being changed. 

"If we do not address this issue now, then the purely technological and commercial interests will come over us like a tsunami. 

"To seize this opportunity it needs a change in mindset."

A new AI Working Group has been asked examine opportunities and risks for the Olympic Movement, but some early signs of its impact may be seen at Paris 2024.

Thomas Bach reiterated his claim Paris 2024 will be a
Thomas Bach reiterated his claim Paris 2024 will be a "Games of a new era" ©Getty Image

Bach summarised AI and esports as two key areas of focus for the IOC moving forward.

"AI and esports - these are our two opportunities," he claimed.

"To seize these opportunities and to manage the risks, we need a new mindset. 

"We need the mindset of the young people.

"We have to trust and to empower them, because the pace of change will be exponential."

Bach reiterated his belief in Paris 2024 as a "Games of a new era" with gender parity in terms of athlete quota places, mass participation events such as the marathon for 40,000 runners, more urban venues and sports and the use of iconic landmarks, and an unprecedented Opening Ceremony watched by 500,000 spectators along the River Seine.

“Imagine all the people, living life in peace," he said in an ode to John Lennon's Imagine.

"You may say, I‘m a dreamer. 

"But I’m not the only one. 

"We all share this dream with the best athletes of the world coming to the Olympic Games Paris 2024."

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among those thanked by IOC President Thomas Bach during his welcome speech in Mumbai ©IOC
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among those thanked by IOC President Thomas Bach during his welcome speech in Mumbai ©IOC

During his speech, Bach thanked IOC member in India Nita Ambani for her welcome to the Session in Mumbai, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was in attendance at the Opening Ceremony, for supporting the Olympic Games, and the French President Emmanuel Macron for his commitment to Paris 2024,

Bach claimed world leaders are "longing for our unifying force in this highly divided and confrontational world".

The IOC Session is due to begin tomorrow and take place until Tuesday (October 17).

Main items on the agenda include the rubber-stamping of the programme for the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics and the election of eight new IOC members.