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Gamers meet Games in inaugural Olympic Esports Week

Elite virtual archers, sharpshooters, race car drivers, cyclists and sailors are gathering in Singapore along with dancers and chess aficionados from Thursday for the first ever Olympic Esports Week.

In keeping with the best Olympic traditions, there will be an opening ceremony before the competitors get down to action playing commercial video games in front of three huge screens at the Suntec City Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Siti Zhywee, a 38-year-old local competing in “Just Dance,” is far from the stereotypical image of a gamer as an unhealthy, isolated youngster wiling away hours glued to their screens.

A dance fitness instructor and mother of two, Zhywee plays the Ubisoft product for two to four hours a day to stay at the top of her game.

Zhywee and her rivals win points by matching the choreography of an electronic dancer on screen, earning extra credits from the judges for expression and style.

“It definitely takes a whole lot of energy,” she told Reuters at the venue.

“But I’m embracing the challenge, I’m embracing the whole training on a daily basis, and also my kids are enjoying me training at home as well.”

Although run by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the winners in each of the 10 games win trophies, not medals.

Building on the Olympic Virtual Series, the Olympic Esports Week is part of a drive under IOC President Thomas Bach to remain relevant to young people and embrace technological advances.

“It’s really part of our global strategy,” said Vincent Pereira, who was appointed the IOC’s first Head Of Virtual Sport in January last year.

“We’ve launched the brand Olympic Esports, and Olympic Esports Week here in Singapore is the first ever – super excited about it.”

Although medals will be on offer for the first time in esports at this year’s Asian Games in Hangzhou, Pereira said including gaming at the Olympics was not necessarily the end goal.

“They’re two different worlds. They have their own codes,” he said.

“But they’re also sharing a lot of similar values, and the Olympic values, like friendship, respect and excellence are all part of both worlds.

“In esports we can see the same synergies, we can see the same values, and this is what we want to see during this Olympic Esports Week.”

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