How Shanghai Summoned the World’s Esports Athletes Amid COVID-19

After canceling a string of high-profile sports events in 2020, the Chinese city made an exception to host the League of Legends World Championship.

After months of canceled events, elite sport has finally returned to Shanghai. But in a very 2020 twist, the athletes are competing exclusively via PCs inside a spectatorless arena.

The event? The League of Legends World Championship, a global esports tournament that pits teams of professional gamers from across the world against each other in tight, strategic battles filled with champions, spells, and monsters.

The annual tournament started Friday and will run for a month, with the grand final taking place Oct. 31. The winners will take home the prestigious 32-kilogram Summoner’s Cup, as well as prize money worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The return of the contest has been hotly anticipated in China, where the video game League of Legends is massively popular. The multiplayer online game — produced by Riot Games, an American firm owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent — features two teams of five players, each competing to destroy the other’s bases.

The 2017 World Championship, the only previous iteration held in China, finished with a final at the National Stadium in Beijing with its seating capacity of 90,000. The event featured accompanying performances by pop star Jay Chou and an augmented reality-rendered dragon.

When a Chinese team won the event for the first time in 2018, it sparked raucous celebrations on college campuses across the country. Students howled from their dorms, lit fireworks, and even went streaking.

This year’s event promises to be more low-key, as most of the matches will be held behind the closed doors of an indoor arena. The only exception is the final, which will take place at the newly built Pudong Football Stadium. Local authorities have yet to confirm whether spectators will be allowed to attend.

The organizers, however, are delighted that the championship is going ahead at all. Continue to read the full article here


– This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone.