ISK 20 Million to Support E-Sports

esports iceland

Reykjavík City Council approved a grant proposal yesterday to fund sports clubs with e-sports teams. The funding will total some ISK 20 million.

Björn Gíslason, city councilperson, has stated his support of the proposal to Vísir, saying that there are high costs to starting e-sports leagues, and that the government’s assistance is important. “It is my dream that electronic sports are implemented in all sports clubs in Reykjavík, especially with the goal of preventing social isolation and increasing the social skills of children and teenagers,” Björn said.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the proposal has been critiqued by representatives from the Independence Party, with some suggesting that e-sports are not an appropriate or important field for government support.

Notably, Iceland already has a relatively established e-sports gaming scene. Local sports clubs have been home to e-sports teams since 2018.

Iceland has also hosted several important e-sports tournaments, having an advantage especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, with relatively relaxed restrictions on gatherings.

Because e-sports are generally at home in high-tech nations, such as South Korea, Japan, China, and also other Nordics such as Denmark and Sweden, the Icelandic e-sports community has tried to make its mark among these peers.

Supporters of the grant for funding also highlight the role that e-sports play in young peoples’ lives. Like traditional sports, they claim, they encourage young people to work together with their peers and form social bonds. Proponents have pointed to the role of e-sports in self discipline, emotional management, responsibility, and other important aspects of childhood development.

League of Legends Tournament Attracts 600 People to Reykjavík

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One of the world’s largest e-sporting events went underway in Reykjavík yesterday, RÚV reports. An estimated 600 people have traveled to Iceland in connection to the event, which pits competitors against each other in two different tournaments. Strict social restrictions are in effect in the Laugardalshöll sporting arena.

COVID cancellation

Last year, Riot Games—one of the largest video game companies in the world—was forced to cancel its League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational (or MSI for short) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This year, as countries across the world ramped up their vaccination campaigns, Riot Games announced that the tournament would go ahead in May and that it would be held in Reykjavík. In addition to the MSI, Riot Games also announced that a second tournament, the so-called Valorant Champions Tour (VCT) Masters Reykjavik, would be held alongside the first. The VCT is the first live international tournament for the Valorant video game.

According to event organizers, Iceland was chosen as a venue for the tournament as it “ranked first” with regard to relevant criteria, ranging from the state of the working environment to stability, in its broadest context. In an interview with RÚV yesterday, Nick Troop—director of the tournament—explained that Riot Games had approached Business Iceland (Íslandsstofa) with the idea of hosting a tournament in Iceland: “It was a win-win for everyone. Iceland is a wonderful country that has responded extremely effectively to the pandemic. We are grateful to be here.”

Strick social restrictions for all 600 attendees

This week, Troop and his cohort traveled to Iceland alongside 11 professional teams from all over the world, in addition to personnel comprising approximately 400 people. “We reach many millions of people from all over the world, across forty different media platforms,” Troop stated. Asked how many people would attend the event, Troop estimated that somewhere between 500-600 people, including professional players and personnel, would be in attendance. 

Strict social restrictions will be in effect at the tournament. No one is allowed to enter the Laugardalshöll arena without submitting a negative PCR test. In collaboration with Business Iceland and the Icelandic health authorities, we decided that every traveler, whether or not they were vaccinated, would self isolate for five days,” Troop explained. “Only after this period of isolation, and only after having received a second negative PCR test, would they be allowed to attend the tournament.” Event organizers will also be taking the temperatures of attendees and tracking the interactions between personnel to ensure effective tracking in the event of an infection. 

The busiest travel weekend of 2021

The tournament goes underway as 17 passenger planes are expected to arrive at Keflavík Airport this weekend. The arrivals make for the busiest travel weekend in Iceland this year, with eight passenger planes expected to arrive on Saturday and nine on Sunday.

There are currently three quarantine hotels in operation in the Greater Reykjavík Area, capable of receiving approximately 500 guests. 

In early April, Iceland’s Court of Appeal confirmed the district court’s ruling that authorities cannot require people to spend their quarantine at quarantine hotels when arriving in the country. The ruling mandated clearer requirements for home quarantine, regarding, for example, housing and rules of conduct. However, those travelers who are unable to stay in a home quarantine that fulfills the requirements will need to stay at a quarantine facility. No fee shall be collected for the stay.

Reykjavík To Host League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational E-sport Event in May

E-sport tournaments the League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational and the Valorant Champions Tour Masters will take place in the Laugardalshöll indoor sporting arena in May. Visit Iceland helped facilitate the event’s organisation and hopes that it will be good for local tourism.  Athletes are unhappy with the arena closing for practice for several weeks.

This will Riot Games’ second in-person competitive event since the pandemic began as last year, the League of Legends Mid-season Invitational was cancelled due to the pandemic. In an interview with the Washington Post, Riot Games representatives state that Iceland’s methods of dealing with the global pandemic were a significant factor in choosing Iceland as the location. Around 400 people will come to Iceland for the tournaments, Visit Iceland states. Contestants and staff will follow infection prevention regulations to the letter and quarantine before the start of the tournament. Contestants will also be tested regularly during the event and there won’t be an in-person audience.

The LOL Mid-season Invitational starts on May 6 and the final is May 23. The following day marks the beginning of the Valorant Champions Tour, ending on May 30th.  Visit Iceland and The Icelandic E-Sports Association are happy with the event, hoping that it will bring revenue as well as marketing opportunities for Iceland’s tourism and even be the first of many international e-sports events. Visit Iceland assisted Riot Games in communicating with the city of Reykjavík and other domestic service providers. “it’s clear that this is an immense opportunity to introduce Reykjavík as a destination for foreign tourists.”Not as thrilled are Icelandic athletes working towards the Olympics. In a Facebook post, Olympian javelin thrower Ásdís Hjálmsdóttir Annerud called closing the arena for practices for the duration of the tournament a sign of grave disrespect towards track-and-field athletes.

League of Legends is one of the world’s most popular video game and tournaments attract large audiences. Visit Iceland representative Karl Guðmundsson stated that Reykjavík was one of the 15 cities vying for the opportunity of hosting the event. Visit Iceland also states that this is the foundation for attracting more e-sport events in the future and a unique opportunity for Iceland to create connections with leading individuals within the industry.

Unemployed Icelanders Offered Training and Jobs as eSports Coaches

League of Legends eSports

Unemployed Icelanders will be able to access free training in eSports coaching, thanks to a new collaboration between the Social Affairs Ministry and the Icelandic eSports Association. Iceland’s government has invested ISK 10 million ($78,000/€64,000) in developing and implementing the coaching course specifically for locals who are currently between jobs. Participants will receive a six-month work contract upon completion of training. One goal of the project is to create permanent jobs in the growing eSports industry.

“I am very excited about this collaboration with the Icelandic eSports Association, where we are hitting two birds with one stone,” stated Ásmundur Einar Daðason, Minister of Social Affairs and Children. “Create exciting opportunities for unemployed individuals and at the same time strengthen eSports infrastructure. There is a lot of strength and growth in eSports in Iceland, but the industry is young and therefore the infrastructure in clubs is often lacking. There has also been a lack of individuals who have experience in training young people, and it is very important that we get individuals with skills and experience into [the eSports industry].”

Ólafur Hrafn Steinarsson, chairman of the Icelandic eSports Association, celebrated the initiative. “This project is extremely important for eSports in Iceland and a great recognition of the excellent work that has been done for eSports in recent years.”

Esports are a form of organised video game competitions, played both individually and in teams. The industry has been growing globally as well as within Iceland, which boasts over 20 eSports clubs that provide eSport activities and training for over 600 children. “This project enables us to be at the forefront of developments in this field globally,” Ólafur Hrafn stated of the initiative. “There are exciting times ahead in this new field.”

Iceland’s government put together a task force last December to write a policy concerning the eSports industry. The group is expected to finish their work at the end of this month.

Iceland’s Largest Electronic Store to Cease DVD Sales

ELKO, Iceland’s largest electronics retailer, will stop selling DVDs starting this fall, Fréttablaðið reports.

In a press release about the decision, marketing director Bragi Þór Antoníuson said the company had reached a crossroads, saying, “When ELKO opened its doors for its first customers in 1998, DVDs were among the first things you saw and ever since, they’ve been a big part of the store’s product offerings. But times change and today, it’s possible to access all that material through various streaming services.”

Since opening, ELKO has sold 1,985,000 DVDs and will sell close to 2 million by the time they discontinue DVD sales. The company is putting all its remaining DVDs on clearance, selling some for as little as ISK 95 ($0.76/€0.67). The company is creating a new eSports division in place of its DVD section, as competitive gaming is gaining popularity in Iceland; the Icelandic eSports Association was recently founded, for instance. The new eSports sections will include eSports merchandise as well as areas for gamers to gather and compete together.

ELKO’s decision to cease DVD sales comes in the wake of most of the country’s video rental shops closing their doors. Video rentals used to be ubiquitous around Iceland but have naturally become fewer and further between with the rise of online streaming service accessibility in Iceland. In 2015, for instance, the largest video store in the country, Laugarásvídeó shuttered after 30 years of operation.