Alliance's Loda slams government's 'stab in the back' as Valve pull TI10 out of Sweden

(Images: Valve, Getty, Alliance)
(Images: Valve, Getty, Alliance)

The International 10 (TI10), the latest iteration of Dota 2's annual world championship tournament, will no longer be held in its original venue in Stockholm, Sweden after the Swedish government's refusal to grant official recognition to the tournament.

The Swedish Esports Association (Esportförbundet) said in a tweet on Thursday (24 June) that Dota 2 developer Valve Software has informed them of their decision to no longer pursue plans to host TI10 in Sweden, a move which has left some members of the community in the country disappointed.

On Tuesday (22 June), Valve first revealed that they were considering moving TI10 to a different venue in Europe after the Swedish government refused to recognise TI10 as an 'elite sporting event'.

Without official recognition from Sweden, all players, talent, and staff attempting to procure a visa for travel into the country for TI10 will be denied, among a host of other issues that will make hosting the tournament practically impossible.

According to Valve, they had reached out to the Swedish Sports Federation, Sweden's Minister of Interior as well as the Swedish government itself in an effort to have TI10 remain in Sweden but to no avail.

As a result of the snub, the developer said they had already "started looking for possible alternatives elsewhere in Europe to host the event this year".

"We will have a solution that allows us to hold TI10 in Europe this year, and that we will be able to announce an updated plan in the very near future. We remain committed to hosting The International this year in a way that is both safe for all involved, and properly celebrates the players and fans of Dota 2. We will be communicating what we find out as soon as we are able," said Valve.

TI10 was originally scheduled to be held in the Avicii Arena, formerly known as the Ericsson Globe, in the Swedish capital of Stockholm from 5 to 15 August. The tournament will feature 18 of the best teams in the Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) battling for the right to claim the Aegis of Champions and a massive US$40 million prize pool — the biggest in all of esports.

Uninformed decision, says Alliance's Loda

The Swedish government's refusal to grant TI10 official recognition has drawn the ire of the esports community in the country.

Chief among them is Jonathan "Loda" Berg — CEO and co-founder of Swedish organisation Alliance, one of the teams set to compete in TI10 — who views his government's decision as a "a stab in the back" of the country's renowned esports scene.

"The International is a very special event - the home country is not decided just easily - there is consideration of prestige and history. To see various Swedish branches continuing to reject esports, including the biggest esports tournament in the world, is no less than a stab in the back for all the people that are fighting for esports in Sweden. But not only that, it’s an uninformed decision, where the decision makers obviously can’t grasp the implications of this long term," said Loda in a statement released to the media on Wednesday (23 June).

TI10 was originally announced to be held in Stockholm in August 2020. However, the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2019-2020 DPC and the postponement of TI10. Valve then announced back in May that TI10 will be making its return to Sweden this August.

It would have been the second time that a European country has hosted The International since the first-ever iteration of the tournament was held in Cologne, Germany back in 2011.

The Swedish esports community had much cause for excitement when it was first announced that TI10 would be held in their country, especially when considering the rich history of esports there.

Loda, who notably won the third iteration of The International back in 2013 in Alliance's first year as an organisation, particularly relished the possibility of seeing his team win their second Aegis of Champions on home soil. Instead, Alliance will now have to fly out of Sweden to compete in TI10.

"For 2 years this has been something that not only us in Alliance but many gamers in Sweden have been holding on to and looking forward to. Sweden has a great history in fielding top competitive esports players across multiple titles and winning some of the biggest esports tournaments in the world," said Loda.

"This is an event that countries will bid for hosting in the future. It's an industry that will generate millions if not billions of tax dollars for Sweden alone. More than that it’s an event that will raise Sweden's status internationally at a time when it’s sorely needed. Esports and gaming is a very big part of youth and digital culture today."

Alliance co-founder Kelly Ong added later in tweet on Thursday that Valve had advised the org to stop their proceedings in Sweden as 'the window for visas was closing'.

Valve are expected to give an update regarding the new venue for TI10 in the coming weeks. Many countries in and around Europe have a history of hosting high-profile Dota 2 tournaments, including Germany, France, Poland, Croatia, Romania, Ukraine, and Russia, among others.

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