Sweden makes a telling statement on esports with DOTA 2 The International ruling

Better luck next country

One of the world’s great ongoing debates—at least where the fans of competition are concerned—is what constitutes a sport and what doesn’t. Football, hockey, and MMA are all no brainers, with bowling, skeet shooting, and archery all debatable. And speaking of debatable, um, step forward snooker, darts, and golf. Esports is right up there with the latter three, with the argument seemingly settled where Sweden is concerned. And that’s bad news for DOTA 2’s The International tournament.

To help keep a lid on COVID-19 the Swedish government has done its best to restrict large public gatherings. Where its made an exception is for elite sporting events.

Since July 1 up to 50 people have been allowed at non-seated indoor events, 300 people at seated indoor events, 600 people allowed at non-seated outdoor events, and up to 3,000 people allowed at seated outdoor events.

One would think that would be great news for organizers of DOTA 2’s The International tournament. The event was supposed to take place in Sweden in 2020, but was cancelled as COVID-19 began to rip its way across the planet.

As things have calmed down a bit, plans were underway for DOTA 2’s The International tournament this year in Sweden. Until, that is, the Swedish government decided that esports aren’t really an elite sorting event. And, therefore, does not qualify to the large-gathering exemptions outlined above.

Rather than regurgitate the whole drama in our own words, we’ll let DOTA developer Valve do the explaining.

Who is right and who is wrong? Well that probably depends whether you thing cheese rolling is a sport or not.

Here is how Valve broke things down on its website in a blog post.

We started working with Sweden back in 2019 to get everything in place to hold TI10 there in 2020. When the global pandemic necessitated a postponement, we doubled our efforts to work in tandem with officials there to make sure we provided them with everything they needed to make this a safe and successful event for everyone.

Over the course of the past year, Stockholm Live and Visit Stockholm continued to reassure us in our regular and constant communications with them that The International – Dota 2 Championships qualified for the same exemptions other elite sporting events there received.

However, despite previous reassurances, we were informed two weeks ago that the Swedish Sports Federation had just voted not to accept esports into the sports federation.

In subsequent (and immediate) meetings with the Swedish Esports Federation (SESF) and Visit Stockholm we discovered our only remaining option was to ask Sweden’s Minister of the Interior to reclassify The International – Dota 2 Championships as an elite sporting event. Our request was immediately denied.

With the Minister of the Interior failing to recognize The International – Dota 2 Championships as an elite sporting event, anyone attempting to procure a visa for travel into Sweden for TI10 (including players, talent, and staff) would be denied. The absence of this official recognition also means individual border agents would be making decisions about entry for those traveling to the event from countries outside the EU who do not typically need a visa to enter Sweden.

We filed an appeal directly with the Swedish government on June 9, but they were unable to provide assistance. On June 14 we followed up asking them to reconsider, and they have so far been unable to offer a resolution. As a result, and in light of the current political situation in Sweden, we have started looking for possible alternatives elsewhere in Europe to host the event this year, in case the Swedish government is unable to accommodate The International – Dota 2 Championships as planned. We feel confident that in either instance we will have a solution that allows us to hold TI10 in Europe this year, and that we will be able to announce an updated plan in the very near future.

We remain committed to hosting The International this year in a way that is both safe for all involved, and properly celebrates the players and fans of Dota 2. We will be communicating what we find out as soon as we are able.

Mike Usinger once took the better part of two years to finish Grand Theft Auto. Over the course of his career he has written about everything from eSports to music to movies to travel.

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