Esports Arena: Olympic Committee "Explores" Esports; 'Gears 5' Launches Competitive Season

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Elsewhere in competitive gaming, the 'Call of Duty' League adds three new teams; a bomb threat halts 'Counter-Strike' live stream; and Riot Games issues a response to World Championship Finals ticketing controversy.

Esports Arena is a curated weekly roundup of the biggest stories in the world of online competitive gaming.

Intel and the International Olympic Committee, the governing body of the Olympic Games, have announced the Intel World Open esports competition, which will be held July 22-24, 2020, just ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, which kick off July 24.

Competitors will square off in rounds of Street Fighter V and Rocket League, with each game sporting a $250,000 prize pool. The event will be held at the Zepp DiverCity venue in Tokyo. 

Despite the co-sponsorship, the IOC has traditionally held competitive gaming at arms’ length, noting that a number of the more popular games on the competitive scene are “not compatible with the Olympic values” and specifying that any talk of esports becoming an Olympic medal event in the future is “premature.” However, the IOC has also publicly supported esports in the past, most recently at the Intel Extreme Masters PyeongChang Starcraft II competition just before the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

“We are excited Intel is bringing the Intel World Open esports tournament to Japan in the lead up to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020,” Kit McConnell, sports director for the IOC, tells The Hollywood Reporter. “As we explore the engagement between esports and the Olympic Movement, we are looking forward to learning from this event and continuing to engage with the passionate esports community from around the world.”

Prospective Intel World Open competitors will have the opportunity to compete online for a chance to qualify in a live event scheduled for next June in Katowice, Poland, the only official qualifier for the main event in July. 

Elsewhere, The Coalition and event organizing firm PGL have revealed plans for Gears 5’s competitive season. Teams who enter and qualify will be competing for a $2 million prize pool. Competitive events have already begun with a "warm-up period" lasting until Sept. 21, followed by the fall quarter of online play and Pro League qualifiers. The season will be divided into four quarters based on the seasons, each ending with a major international event and culminating with the World Championship in July 2020. So far, San Diego and Mexico City have been tapped for the fall and winter quarters, while the spring and summer events remain without a host city.

Here’s what else is happening in the world of esports.

Call of Duty League Adds More Teams

The Call of Duty League has once again expanded its roster, adding teams in Chicago, London and Seattle, bringing the total roster to 12 teams. Other clubs include Atlanta, Minneapolis, Dallas, Florida, New York, Paris, Toronto and two Los Angeles-based squads. Johanna Faries, commissioner of Call of Duty esports for Activision Blizzard, commented on the expansion, saying, “We aspire for Call of Duty to be one of the biggest and best leagues on the planet. The addition of best-in-class organizations in Chicago, London and Seattle is a strong step toward this ambition.”

Riot Responds to Fan Outrage Over LoL Worlds Tickets

The League of Legends World Championship Finals sold out in less than an hour when they went on sale Monday, causing an uproar from fans over how passes to the event were made available. Tickets were available on third-party sites before the main sale began on AccorHotels Arena’s website (the event's venue in Paris), with some prices marked up considerably. Anton Ferraro, head of global esports comms at Riot Games, responded to the backlash, saying that “the earlier sale represented only a small portion of the total available tickets” and that “the vast majority of tickets went on sale at the designated time.” 

CSGO Qualifier Stream Delayed Due To Bomb Threat

The Counter-Strike ECS Qualifiers online stream in Santa Monica was briefly delayed after local police identified a bomb threat at the venue. Team Liquid and eUnited were entering the 19th round of their match when the live FACEIT broadcast team was told about a “suspicious package” found outside the FACEIT studio. Minutes later, the stream was halted and the building was evacuated. Following the investigation, SMPD stated there was "no threat to the public" and the match continued, with Team Liquid taking the win 2-1 over eUnited.