Opinion: ESL One Rio Major May Still Happen in 2020, But Does it Make Sense?

Initially scheduled to take place in May, the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) tournament ESL One Rio Major 2020 was postponed in March to November after the COVID-19 outbreak, which has affected Brazil in a dramatic way with 120,000 deaths and a designation by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an epicenter of the pandemic since May.

Almost six months after the postponement, the situation in Brazil is still not under control yet. Hundreds of Brazilians die every day, while the world still doesn’t have a vaccine fully approved by international health authorities. An immeasurable number of private and public events are still being canceled or postponed, and sports events are happening without a crowd. In Brazil, even the Carnival of 2021 has been postponed in São Paulo.

According to statistics from WHO, Brazil has the second most COVID-19 cases behind the U.S. with nearly 3.9M cases. As of Tuesday, 120,828 deaths in the country have been attributed to the virus, with 366 deaths in the most recent 24-hour period.

Meanwhile, ESL has already announced that other events around the globe are happening online, like ESL One: Cologne, but it is highly unlikely Rio Major 2020 will have an easy solution once it requires teams and players to travel to Brazil where COVID-19 containment has proven to be a challenge for the government. Besides that, DreamHack postponed all remaining 2020 events to 2021, while Valve postponed Dota 2’s The International tournament indefinitely. It is fair to point out that the Overwatch League and League of Legends World Championship are also taking place with live events, but none of them will require a trip to a pandemic hotspot or be held in countries where fans are not allowed to attend tournaments in-person. 

All of this would lead to the obvious thinking that Rio Major 2020 would be canceled, but, surprisingly, maybe it will indeed still take place this year. ESL and its Brazilian partner Bad Boy Leeroy (BBL) have not changed course yet and the event is still officially happening. When thinking about the pandemic in Brazil, it would indeed be safer for the players, the audience, and the organization’s staff to postpone it once again to at least February 2021, or to seek online alternatives. But as the daily death count in the country is lowering and Brazilian businesses such as theaters and cinemas are already following a reopening plan, maybe the cancellation scenario is less of a possibility than predicted. 

Recently, Globo and GO4IT Capital announced the yearly ceremony Prêmio eSports Brasil will still be happening in December 2020 as a live event with guests. Although the format might change as the situation of the pandemic will be handled in the upcoming months, main focus of the event is to make a suitable production for TV and does not involve bringing foreign teams into the country.

Therefore, the pessimism around Rio Major 2020 and Brazil’s COVID-19 situation which made many (including myself) think that it would absolutely not happen this year, seems to be slowly clearing.

It depends only on ESL’s decision once sports competitions are already happening again in the country and the reopening of various venues such as cinemas is underway, and the entrance of international organization’s personnel to enter the country was authorized since June 30 by the Ordinance No. 340 issued by the federal government, allowing for a “short stay, with no intention of establishing residence” of those with “the purpose of performing artistic, sporting or business activities.”

Of course, the event would have to follow strict protocols to prevent contamination, and the Brazilian audience might have to miss the opportunity to see global CS:GO stars in person. When facing this perspective, wouldn’t it be better to make the Major in a country where the virus is more controlled and broadcast it online? And regarding the tournament happening in Rio, why not postpone it indefinitely, making another season’s Major in the venue so the Brazilian audience has a better chance of personally attending it?

It is fair to highlight that ESL acted correctly by postponing the event to November. If there was one mistake it was counting on the Brazilian authorities to handle the crisis properly. President Jair Bolsonaro’s government is marked by incompetence in multiple fields, adding up to irresponsible speech and attitude, disbelief in science, and endorsement to conspiracy theories. As part of the Brazilian population blindly follows Bolsonaro’s way of thinking, tragedy has occurred since the beginning of the pandemic. 

We cannot forget that more than 120,000 lives have been lost in the country during the pandemic, and even if the daily death rate is lower now, hundreds are still dying every day. So when considering the logistics to build up the structure for the competition, if the realization of the event leads to the death of a single person it is already too much of a price to pay. We can only hope the situation gets better by November, but if it doesn’t, we also hope that ESL does not consider the scenario suitable just to make it happen anyway. 

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