The city of Stockholm is a step closer to hosting the first Counter-Strike Major since 2019 after Swedish authorities decided to relax travel restrictions for esports players.
According to a report from Swedish outlet Expressen, all esports athletes will be allowed to enter Sweden, regardless of their country of origin, provided that they produce a negative test.
“We want esports players to be treated the same way as other elite athletes,” Mikael Damberg, Sweden’s Ministry of Interior, told Swedish news agency TT.
Sweden hopes that the decision to treat the players as an exception will help convince PGL, the company in charge of running the Major, that Stockholm is still a viable host city for the showpiece event. In July, PGL announced that it was in discussions with two other European countries about moving the Major if Sweden did not relax its restrictions.
Just days before PGL issued its statement, Stockholm mayor Anna König Jerlmyr had pleaded with Swedish authorities to grant exceptions to esports stars. Earlier that month, Stockholm had lost the hosting rights to Dota 2’s premier tournament, The International 10, to Bucharest due to the country’s refusal to classify the competition as an elite sporting event.
The final hurdle to hosting the Major in Stockholm, Expressen adds, is related to the number of spectators allowed inside the Avicii Arena. Sweden’s restrictions in July allowed for only 300 spectators inside the arena — a number that is deemed too low by PGL for an event of this magnitude.
Moment of rejoice
A final decision on the capacity at the Avicii Arena for the Major is expected by September 15, but the feeling in Sweden is that a breakthrough has been made.
“We f**ing did it,” NIP CEO Hicham Chahine wrote on Twitter. “Esports athletes are now to go under the same travel exemptions as other sports in Sweden.
“Everyone will now be allowed entry for the Major.”
— Hicham Chahine (@ChahineHicham) August 19, 2021
PGL Major Stockholm is slated to take place from October 23 to November 7. It will be the first Counter-Strike Major in over two years after the global health crisis upended the global esports calendar.