Opinion: Rio needs to do better next time
After eight days of top Counter-Strike, the IEM Rio Major ended with the crowning of Outsiders as its champions, in a playoff stage without any top 3 teams. Every event has its ups and downs, technical problems and big highlights, and IEM Rio wasn't different.
This Major was marketed around being the "biggest CS:GO tournament of all time" and, naturally, expectations were sky high. Another focal point for IEM Rio publicity was gAuLeS. The Brazilian streamer would be doing his thing in loco during the Challengers and Legends Stages, and, later, was included in the Jeunesse Arena due to "weather adversities". The participation from the streamer would sometimes shift the spotlight from the games to himself which is not what the non-Brazilian fans watching, either at home or in the arena, want.
As I said before, Alexandre "gAuLeS" Chiqueta would, at times, shift the focus of the crowd away from the game, just like when you have a TV turned on at home but you are not paying attention, and that would result in seemingly lesser-exciting games. Of course, the quality of gameplay was there, but if the fans in the arena are not into it, the viewer at home might feel out of it as well.
Shifting away from specific personalities, although there's more to be said about gAuLeS' influence in the Major (more on that in another article), the Major also suffered from congested queues to access the Jeunesse Arena during the Champions Stage. This stems from the fact that the Fan Fest was happening at the same time and fans would delay their entry into the venue just to enjoy the party for a bit longer. Maintaining on the Fan Fest topic, this would be a big problem that has an easy fix for future events. The party, initially, was meant for those who couldn't get in the arena, but with some shifts in the tickets, fans who would get a ticket for the Jeunesse Arena would also be allowed inside the Fan Fest, making people prefer to stay outside with their favorite streamers casting. This changed due to the "weather" and gAuLeS and his team moving inside, but that only confirmed what was suspected, people were mostly going to the Major just to hang around the Brazilian CS:GO personalities, as the competition could have been a tier four tournament and the numbers would be more or less the same, only if it had gAuLeS and co. casting there. One just can't get away from mentioning gAuLeS, it seems.
The timing of the Major wasn't the best too, with the political elections that happened one day before the games started, which conditioned some fans who weren't able to watch the first day of play due to some blockades on the roads surrounding Rio de Janeiro. Also, the grand final and a crucial exam for Brazilian students were both on the same day, as that definitely prevented some teenagers from watching the series.
Of course, we need to talk about those people who don't know how to behave. There were two main incidents involving "not-fans", one during the last day of the Challengers Stage that saw a 16-year-old expelled from the event due to verbal offenses and gestures, and another during the game between NAVI and FURIA, with someone spitting on a member of the Eastern European squad. These occurrences shall be the lowest point of the whole Major, as this is unacceptable behavior.
The production of the event wasn't flawless at all, unfortunately. There were some audio problems, questionable moments where the production preferred to show the crowd instead of the game, and, right before the grand final, a glass panel in one of the sides wouldn't work, delaying the start of the game for some minutes. Production problems happen all the time, it's natural, but for an event like a CS:GO Major, there can't be a lot of those.
Highlighting the good stuff now, let's continue with the production. The ESL team had to produce two majors at the same time, as gAuLeS' stream was handled by the TO to some extent, and only a few problems happened. This meant two very different types of broadcasts, and both can be seen as successful, despite the aforementioned flaws.
The Fan Fest was also a successful experiment overall. Sure it needs some tweaking for future events, but it is certain that fans will flock to something like that in order to share some opinions, have a good time, and relax before or after entering the arena. Keywords are before and after. If tournament organizers want to keep the streaming of the games in the Fan Fest, my personal suggestion is to not have tickets that can get you into both the arena and the party. If they don't stream the games, I would say to make the entry free and open to all, the teams' stands, as well as the other brands' stands, will be grateful to have more pairs of eyes searching for a souvenir.
The fact that the Challengers and Legends Stages had a crowd was a major success. I still think it remains to be seen if that wasn't a factor in the lesser number of fans in the rafters on the last days, as some would get exhausted, but if it was not, it should be a must-have for the following Majors in Counter-Strike history, no exaggeration. We fans really love CS:GO, and to be able to watch our idols in person is amazing, even during the first stage of a Major. After all, that's all what the fans could see of the Brazilian legends in Rio, unfortunately.
The game in itself is also a highlight of this Major. Sure, FaZe, NAVI, Liquid, Vitality, NIP, and many others underperformed, but that doesn't make it a bad Major, on the contrary, it reinforces the idea that this is the era without eras: no team is by far and away better than everybody else. This has been an amazing story for many teams, with MOUZ and FURIA making history by reaching the semifinals, Dzhami "Jame" Ali finally finding closure after the Berlin Major, Spirit showing great promise, Bad News Eagles once again proving doubters wrong, fnatic having an insane run, and many more storylines. This is why we watch Counter-Strike. Unfortunately, the spotlight wasn't always shining on the players and games, and that's a central point to have in mind for future events in Brazil.
Overall, IEM Rio was a success for Brazilians on-site and for those watching at home. They got to celebrate Counter-Strike and that's what matters the most. But the "biggest CS:GO event ever" should be like that for everyone, not just for one specific group, as big or small as it is.