On Aug. 24, Riot Games announced a change in location for Worlds 2021, moving the event from five cities throughout China to an undisclosed location in Europe. In the announcement, Riot noted the difficulty — and in some cases, inability — for teams and players to travel to China, specifically citing COVID-19 as the main factor.
“Sadly, we’ve reached the point where it’s extremely difficult to guarantee that qualifying teams and their best players would be able to attend Worlds this year,” said John Needham, Global Head of Esports at Riot.
However, Riot Games has yet to announce where in Europe the event will take place, with just one month remaining until the typical Play-In start date. It’s likely they didn’t switch the region without confidence that they will indeed be able to find a venue in Europe — but without one confirmed, they leave a lot of speculation on the table. But despite the lack of confirmation, there are a few cities fans should expect for Worlds 2021 end up in, based on historical use for past events, ease of access, visa processes, COVID data, venues available, relevance in esports and other factors.
First up is Berlin, an obvious choice for Worlds 2021. Riot operates the League of Legends European Championship in its own studio in Adlershof, Berlin, which has already been home to numerous events. More specifically, they held the 2018 Mid Season Invitational Group Stage there, which means Riot has already worked with the German government before, potentially allowing them to expedite the visa process for international teams this time around.
Also, thanks to one of the Riot offices being in the city, it would be easier to coordinate production and staff who will be traveling on-site for Worlds. Riot should also already have connections with any further resources needed beyond their own scope, like catering, accommodation and, of course, local venues.
The other big upside is Riot is hosting the VALORANT Champions Tour Masters event in Berlin from Sept. 9-19. They may be able to piggyback off whatever venue and hotel they’re using there to accommodate Worlds just a couple of weeks later. They may also be able to reuse stage equipment and other assets depending on theme and branding. It wouldn’t be a perfect 1:1, but it could reduce costs and time enough to make it considerably more worthwhile.
Berlin is cost-efficient, requires less coordination with venues and is proven to work for international events. It’s a great choice.
The potential downside is Germany’s COVID situation. Germany requires a 10-day quarantine upon arriving for any unvaccinated person in a high-risk area, which is nearly the entire world outside a few select countries. That would require most teams to undergo that quarantine, other than those who are vaccinated. They also have a 14-day mandatory quarantine for any region qualified as a “virus-variant area.” So far, they do not classify any region in that manner, but that could change before Worlds 2021.
Germany is also reporting the fifth most Covid cases per day across all of Europe, according to Reuters, but they’re only at 31% of their peak cases. This shows that, overall, they’re in a much better spot now than they have been throughout the pandemic. The reported cases per day is a flat number, not a percentage, and since Germany has a higher population than many European countries, it is reasonable to expect them to be closer to the top of the list.
Finally, beyond the LEC studio itself, the city is home to a plethora of other options Riot could choose from for their bracket stage matches and Finals.
The Estrel Berlin
Second, we have another obvious choice in Reykjavík, which current League esports fans will be familiar with. Riot held MSI in this bustling town in May and could potentially pull off the same feat now, just a few months later. While Iceland loses the benefits of limiting travel for LEC teams and the “pre-paid” venue of the LEC Studio, it has a few other benefits.
First and foremost, since Riot just held an event there, the application process for visas should be relatively simple and easily repeatable from when they went through the same process just a few months ago. Many of the teams at MSI are returning, so they would already be familiar with the process, which should also expedite travel.
Iceland has a bit more lenient travel restrictions than Berlin, as well. Vaccinated individuals are exempt from a mandatory quarantine while unvaccinated individuals are required to quarantine for five days upon arrival. All travelers are also required to take a free COVID test upon arrival. Unvaccinated travelers are required to take a second COVID test at the end of their quarantine, but they do not have to isolate while waiting for results.
Iceland has a much lower new case rate than Berlin, but it’s also much closer to its peak, at 63% of its worse case total. The great news is the country did not see any spike through May or June when Riot hosted MSI and VCT Masters 2, which could bode well for a bid at hosting in the country again. However, Iceland went from single-digit new cases per day through early July to averaging around 100 new cases in early August, the highest the country has ever seen. The spike could cause a change in travel restrictions that might make hosting Worlds 2021 less likely or even impossible.
However, ending on a good note, due to Iceland’s lower population and otherwise limited travel, Riot may have easier access to venues and hotels when compared to Berlin. The most likely venue in Iceland would be Laugardalshöll, the sports and exhibition center where they hosted MSI.
The Harpa Concert Hall
Finally, Riot could host Worlds in a new location to spice things up a bit. The biggest downside would be working with a new government in a new city without any previously established relationships or knowledge of the resources available. While Berlin offers proximity and a decade-long history of operations and Reykjavík offers the ease and familiarity of a recent event with proven safety, Prague falls flat in that category.
However, the city has a lot to offer otherwise and would be an incredible host city for a lot of other reasons. The biggest upside to Prague is Czechia’s travel restrictions and COVID cases are both equal to or better than Berlin and Reykjavík’s. When traveling to Prague, vaccinated individuals do not need a quarantine, and unvaccinated must only quarantine until their test results come back negative. That cuts the 10 day Berlin quarantine and five-day Reykjavík quarantine down to about two days.
Prague is operating under pretty “normal” circumstances, meaning there is no curfew and most businesses are open at maximum or near-maximum capacity. There are a similar number of cases as Reykjavík, but they’re at only 1% of their peak cases rather than 63%. They have not had any spikes in cases since March of this year and total at only 5,000 cases in the last month across the whole country, according to Johns Hopkins University. To put that in perspective, Los Angeles has had 100,000 cases in the same time period. Berlin has had double the cases of all of Czechia, and Iceland has had half as many.
Prague also has a rich history and would be an exciting new venture for Riot Games and League of Legends esports. It may take a bit more work to set up, but the reduced quarantine and openness of the country offers a much better overall experience than hosting in most other places throughout the continent. There are plenty of historic and modern venues for each stage of the tournament as well.
The biggest question is, “Can Riot get access for this large of a tournament on such short notice while working with a government they haven’t worked with previously?” If the answer is yes, then Prague is an incredible option for Worlds 2021.
Lucerna Great Hall
Karlín Musical Theatre
Riot only mentioned Worlds would be in Europe, and there are obviously a lot of places across the continent to choose from. The issue is, most countries have really strict travel restrictions, really bad COVID cases or are otherwise not suitable for hosting Worlds. Warsaw, Poland is a great candidate, but their travel restrictions are a bit too demanding right now. It’s the same with Romania, and Denmark is similar, but they require a “worthy purpose” to enter if unvaccinated. Greenland is completely closed after the country recently got a small spike in new cases.
Other big candidates, like the United Kingdom and Spain, have higher COVID cases than Germany, and they offer fewer upsides to hosting the event. It’s entirely possible that Worlds takes place in another country, but Berlin and Reykjavík are by far the most likely, with Prague as an honorable mention for something new.