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Esports will be a medal event at the 2022 Asian Games

Alibaba's sports arm collaborates with the Olympic Council of Asia to get started with esports at next year's Asian Games in Indonesia.

Nicolas Liponne, NurPhoto via Getty Images

Thumb mashers, get ready to medal.

The Olympic Council of Asia said it will introduce esports to the official program of the 2022 Asian Games in China, meaning the, errr, athletes who compete in videogames will be eligible for medals. Esports will debut at next year's Asian Games in Indonesia as a "demonstration sport."

The decision reflects "the rapid development and popularity of this new form of sports participation among the youth," the OCA said in a statement posted on Monday. The council is partnering with Alisports, a unit of China's Alibaba Group, to bring esports to the games.

The market for esports is growing, and participation is expected to reach 191 million people around the world by year's end, according to research firm Newzoo. As of last April, the industry was worth more than $450 million, an amount that is expected to grow to $1 billion by 2019.

Meanwhile, the National Basketball Association is creating its own esports league. Gaming schools have also cropped up to groom the next generation of pros. Esports will also be a demonstration event at the OCA's Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Turkmenistan in September, according to the OCA.

Alibaba's interest in the market isn't new. The company invested $150 million in the International e-Sports Federation last year and organized a worldwide tournament featuring a prize pool of more than $5.5 million.

Correction, 1:48 p.m AEST: Removed references to esports as "official Olympic sport" as the IOC does not recognise it as such.

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