The European Final of the World Electronic Sports Games (WESG), running from Nov. 23 to 26 in Barcelona, brought together 336 players, the best of the best from 26 European countries, from the Counter Strike games: Global Offensive, Hearthstone, DOTA 2 and Starcraft II, competing for a prize pool of 9,800 and tickets to the Global Electronic Sports Games Grand Final in 2018.
Zhang Dazhong, the Alisports CEO and the creator of this world tournament of electronic sports, arrived at the stage after an 11-hour flight from Shanghai.
With Zhang as director of Alisports, the company has invested more than 150 million yuan (approximately 22.4 million US dollars) in WESG per year. The investment has surprised many observers, because there are still not many people in China who understand the importance of electronic sports. They are only video games for children, right? They questioned.
"Electronic sports are not the same as video games," explained Zhang, "Only 30 percent of video games can be electronic sports. Alisports rigorously chooses the games for its athleticism, its justice, its sustainability and its sports spirit."
His words can be proved in several ways. This year, electronic sports have been registered as official tournaments of the Asian Games in 2022, while Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, said that the IOC would like to open its door to electronic sports as long as it does not go against the Olympic spirit, during his visit to the Alibaba headquarters in Hangzhou, China, in August.
"On the other hand, we have clearly known that we will not gain commercial profit with electronic sports in a while, but that does not matter," added Zhang, "Alisports was only founded two years ago. From the beginning we have established our goal: we do not invest in the past, but for the future. Most fans of electronic sports are between 18 and 25 years old. It is a very young group, it is also the generation in which we are going to invest and to which we are going to serve."
In 2015, Zhang left his position as vice president of Shanghai Media Group, but did not know what he was going to do until he had a talk with Ma Yun, the founder of Alibaba, in which the two found they share the same idea about sports: it is the cross point of health and happiness. A short time later, Alisports was founded with the investment of Alibaba, and Zhang has been CEO since then.
In the past two years, AliSports has gradually found its development strategy. "We have got great support from the Alibaba group, but with these resources, we are not going to buy things. We want creation and innovation. Now we focus on two aspects: Electronic sports and campus sports, which is for young people in schools and universities. Electronic sports is the integration of technology and sports, while campus sports is a necessary step for training professional athletes."
Thanks to the development in technologies, AliSports can dedicate itself to integrate sports with internet and big data. In this way, people can do sports more easily and conveniently: look for a stadium or playground on line, organize a team to play by APP, receive professional training with artificial intelligence, watch games via multimedia, etc.
"Sport is crucial for a healthy body, as well as a healthy personality, and therefore a healthy society. We do not think about training professional athletes, but we want to make everyone a sportsman," Zhang said.