The International Dota 2 Championship Regional Qualifiers are in full swing, but as of now we still don't know where it will be held. In a statement from last June, Valve announced that it will no longer be held in Sweden, saying:
“Over the course of the past year, Stockholm Live and Visit Stockholm continued to reassure us in our regular and constant communications with them that The International – Dota 2 Championships qualified for the same exemptions other elite sporting events there received.
However, despite previous reassurances, we were informed two weeks ago that the Swedish Sports Federation had just voted not to accept esports into the sports federation.
In subsequent (and immediate) meetings with the Swedish Esports Federation (SESF) and Visit Stockholm we discovered our only remaining option was to ask Sweden's Minister of the Interior to reclassify The International – Dota 2 Championships as an elite sporting event. Our request was immediately denied.”
The International not being recognized as an elite sporting event would cause severe visa issues for everyone involved. Valve filed an appeal on June 9 and followed up on June 14 but both remain unresolved. This has led them to find alternatives elsewhere in Europe.
Surely, one good indicator is if the city has held an esports tournament recently. This will show that the city is esports-friendly, and the local government is supportive of the industry despite the pandemic. Another factor we can consider is the local Dota 2 player base and its working history with Valve tournaments. With all that information at hand, which places in Europe are most likely to hold one of esports biggest tournaments? Let's take a look.
5. Reykjavík, Iceland
If Dota 2 is willing to take cues from its biggest esports rival, League of Legends, then it might consider hosting The International in Reykjavík. The city hosted LoL‘s Mid-Season Invitational last May, at the Laugardalshöll indoor sporting arena. The LAN tournament only suffered the loss of one team to COVID-19 travel restrictions – GAM Esports from Vietnam.
4. Katowice, Poland
Katowice, Poland is a favorite yearly destination for Valve's other major esports title, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The city, and the Spodek arena, are definitely no strangers to large-scale LAN tournaments. In February of this year, it hosted the Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) Katowice 2021. The in-studio LAN tournament was a success, though several teams did need to be replaced due to travel restrictions and team withdrawals.
3. Bucharest, Romania
Bucharest, Romania, is the home of PGL, Valve's long-time partner tournament organizer. They will surely benefit from having the headquarters of their main organizer nearby. Bucharest's Polyvalent Hall also hosted the Dota 2 Bucharest Major in 2018. The city hasn't hosted a major esports tournament this year, however, which is why it only appears here on number 3.
2. Cologne, Germany
Cologne was the host of the very first The International way back in 2011. Back in those days, it was only a smaller tournament inside the GamesCom trade show. The prize pool was only a total of $1,600,000. It seems only fitting to bring the tournament full-circle for the 10th iteration and see how far it has come.
Cologne will also be hosting the LAN studio event, IEM Cologne 2021, for CS:GO this July. The Lanxess Arena is even heralded as “The Cathedral of Counter-Strike”. Its commitment to hosting a LAN tournament during the pandemic is a signal to Valve that the city is ready to tackle The International. Wouldn't it be nice to see Dota 2‘s biggest tournament return to the city where it all began?
1. Kyiv, Ukraine
Ukraine's capital, Kyiv (also spelled Kiev), hosted the last tournament in the Dota Pro Circuit – the WePlay AniMajor. The tournament appeared to be a success and ran without a hitch. A fact that is especially impressive due to it being a LAN event in the middle of the current pandemic. It seems like Kyiv is the most well-equipped city in Europe to handle a tournament of The International's prestige right now.
Kyiv also has a storied history with Dota 2 itself. The city hosted the Kiev Major in 2017 at the National Palace of Arts. It is also the home of major esports tournament organizers, such as StarLadder and WePlay. Hosting The International in the CIS region also shows support to the long-time, large, active, and vibrant community of players there.
So there you have it, five possible cities to host one of esports' most prestigious tournaments. The North American and Southeast Asian qualifiers have already concluded, so it's only a matter of time before we find out where TI10 will be held.