Already delayed from 2020, this year’s The International was supposed to take place in Sweden, until Sweden looked at the continuing global pandemic and said no thank you. So Valve had to scramble to find a city that would take the event, and in Bucharest, they’ve found it.
Valve announced yesterday that The International 2021 will take place in October, and will be held outdoors in the Arena Națională, a stadium that’s normally home to Romania’s big football matches. It’ll run from October 7-17, with a total prize pool of $40,018,195.
Given Valve’s struggles with Swedish authorities, who refused to allow The International to take place when they decided esports events weren’t afforded the same pandemic-related exemptions as actual sports, they’re understandably very happy with their new friends in Romania, saying in a blog post:
We are grateful for the partnership we have formed with Romania and the city of Bucharest, and very much look forward to gathering with the global Dota 2 community, both in-person and virtually, to celebrate the elite players and amazing fandom at The International.
The Arena Națională seats up to 55,000 for football matches in non-pandemic times, though you’d imagine the capacity for The International would be a much smaller figure.
And while it’s understandable to side-eye Valve’s attempts to make sure the tournament takes place no matter the location and no matter the risk, it’s not like big stadium gatherings are a rarity in 2021. Yesterday’s England v Denmark game at Wembley, for example, allowed 60,000 spectators in, though that’s in a country where half the population has been vaccinated.
In Romania, around 23% have been fully vaccinated, though who knows what the rates would be among those attending from across the continent, since they’d vary from country to country.
UPDATE 1:56am - Corrected Romania’s vaccination figures to reflect the most recent statistics.