As the World Cup games in Qatar have shown, sports can be the great equalizer between peoples. A new initiative takes this cross-cultural cooperation to the virtual playing field.
Dubbed the “Abraham Accords Esports Peace Games,” videogame players from across the United States and Middle East to compete in Tel Aviv from January 26 to 28.
National teams from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco will be among those vying for a prize fund of $82,000.
The international industry value of esports is expected to reach $1.8 billion by 2025, and tournaments can attract up to 400 million viewers on platforms such as YouTube and Twitch.
The Peace Games are supported by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs; investment and merchant bank Lion Tree; and philanthropist Sylvan Adams, who is co-chairing the organizing committee with US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides. The Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem is also backing the event.
The organizers have allocated $1.5 million to produce the event at Shlomo Group Arena in Tel Aviv, with thousands of spectators expected to fill the seats.
A separate gaming festival will be held alongside the tournament, so that non-official players can still connect with each other. Participants will also take tours and sightseeing trips around Israel.
Nides said he hopes that this will be just the first of many joint cultural activities “connecting with the region’s youth to make sure the [Abraham] Accords are sustainable.”
“To weave the warm peace that we all seek in the region, we must have people-to-people exchanges: sporting, cultural and especially, tourism with our neighbours,” Adams adds. “Esports introduces a whole new cohort to Israel.”
The Peace Games reflect what’s already been happening in the gaming world.
“Israeli gamers have long enjoyed playing online with all peoples, fellow gamers, from all over the world, including the Middle East,” notes Ido Brosh, president of the Israeli Esports Association.
“To be able to welcome them to Israel is a true honor and a sign of how we share so much more than divides us.”