Esports has been included among new sports added to the programme for the 2026 Asian Games in Aichi and Nagoya ©AESF

Esports will appear as a medal sport for the second consecutive Asian Games in 2026 in Aichi and Nagoya after its debut at this year’s re-arranged edition in Hangzhou.

It was one of nine sports to be added to the programme following approval from the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).

Esports was one of two picks by the OCA, along with squash, which will be making its eighth consecutive appearance at the Asian Games following its debut at Bangkok 1998.

Aichi-Nagoya 2026, meanwhile, have chosen to add baseball and softball and karate to the programme, two sports which are hugely popular in Japan.

Each of the five OCA zones was also allowed to propose a sport.

East Asia has chosen wushu, South East Asia sepak takraw, South Asia kabaddi, Central Asia kurash and West Asia jiu jitsu.

The Olympic Council of Asia put forward esports for the programme at in Aichi-Nagoya 2026, along with squash ©AESF
The Olympic Council of Asia put forward esports for the programme at in Aichi-Nagoya 2026, along with squash ©AESF

The nine sports have been added to the 32 being held at next year’s Olympic Games in Paris.

It takes to 41 the number of medal sports being contested at Aichi-Nagoya 2026, one more than Hangzhou 2022 but five less than the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta-Palembang.

Esports is making its full-fledged debut as an official medal sport at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, which is being held this year between September 23 and October 8 having been postponed in 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It had appeared as a demonstration sport at Jakarta-Palembang 2018.

Seven games are being contested at Hangzhou 2022 - Arena of Valor, Dota 2, Dream Three Kingdoms 2, FIFA 22, League of Legends, PUBG Mobile and Street Fighter V.

The titles for Aichi-Nagoya 2026 have yet to be announced, but the Asian Electronic Sports Federation (AESF) were happy that they will continue to feature on the programme.

"The inclusion of a wide array of titles in the Asian Games not only demonstrates the diverse nature of esports but also highlights the various dimensions of skill, strategy, and teamwork exhibited by the athletes, delivering a comprehensive experience for spectators," Lokesh Suji, vice-president of the AESF and director of the Esports Federation of India, said.

"The esports industry and its passionate community have long been working towards gaining recognition, and the recent announcement clearly indicates the significant progress made by the esports ecosystem on international platforms.

"The official recognition of esports as a medal sport further enhances and elevates the standing of esports athletes, placing them on par with mainstream sports personalities."