IEM Katowice 2024 coverage powered by Predator Gaming
Esports News UK content producer and Solent University sports journalism student Reece Barrett soaks in some Polish culture ahead of the IEM Katowice 2024 playoffs.
Hannah Marie and I flew from Heathrow, London to Krakow on an early morning flight to cover IEM for Esports News UK, and had an unusual welcome.
After landing and leaving the airport, we were surprised by two crazy tour guides in neon green and red tracksuits, with slicked-back hair. They burst into the meet and greet zone, chatting to local strangers and winding up our group of press as they walked.
A firm handshake introduction between our tour guides and the group, and we were off and running – a brisk five-minute walk through the Krakow sleet towards a tiny car park tucked behind a multi-story mammoth that dwarfed its little sibling.
I was chatting towards the back of the group and didn’t know what to expect when I heard laughter and disbelief ahead of me, but when I too walked around the corner and saw a couple of old Lada cars waiting for us – I couldn’t help but question what on Earth we had gotten ourselves into.
One of these cars had a police light on top and was decked out in a blue decal, looking as if the Life on Mars cast tried to storm Dunkirk or save Private Ryan.
My concerns were nonetheless squashed when the leader of the two – Michal ‘Crazy Mike’ Ostrowski – pulled out a briefcase and opened up the latch.
It could’ve been a professional place to keep their car keys, but no, the case opened to reveal a bottle of premium Polish vodka and a jar of homemade pickles. Then we were swiftly presented with some ‘moonshine’.
What followed was an afternoon of Polish hardbass, historic communist sites visited by car and banter between the two tour guides.
While the tour was deliberately silly, there was still much to be learnt about the communist period of Poland, and the local cuisine.
We soon moved forward on our journey to Katowice ahead of the Opening Ceremony of IEM Katowice 2024 at the Spodek Arena on Friday.
Crazy Guides owner Michal ‘Crazy Mike’ Ostrowski studied to become a lawyer and ended up as a receptionist in a Krakow hotel, but in 2004, he decided that he wanted to do something completely different.
Michal said: “I constantly met some tourists at my reception job and law is not for me, because I’m like this, I’m a prankster in my life and I was being a prankster for free during my whole time at school.
“That’s why I decided that I cannot show Krakow and be serious the whole time. And I do like history, by the way, because we were pranking but we also showed the city different districts, and now all these social, cultural things, and how they all come together as one.”
IEM Katowice 2024 opening ceremony as playoffs kick off
We journeyed from Krakow to Katowice, and the opening ceremony pulled no punches when hyping up the Spodek Arena.
A wholesome speech from esports veteran and ESL’s VP Product Development, Michal ‘Carmac’ Blicharz, rooted the beginning of the tournament in human emotion, and the fantastic visuals that followed helped build the hype.
An unorthodox rocket launch inspired opening confused at first, but as the teams started to walk onto the stage one-by-one, the message of making history was soon clear.
IEM Katowice has maintained its reputation as one of the biggest tournaments in the calendar – even after the franchise jumped up four decimal points from 1.6 to 2.
Having six teams lined up on stage and the stature of the tournament built up made the event feel massive, the ceremony proved that whoever wins this event will not be forgotten, as they etch a permanent spot in the history books.
That feeling was only amplified by the crowd’s cheer when ENCE were announced, with the home-country team having the Spodek in the palms of their hands.
The only thing missing was the trophy itself, but that situation would soon be sorted.
I grew up in a football-mad household and was lucky enough to regularly find myself in crowds of tens of thousands at football games. I still do not think that I have ever heard a crowd roar as loud as it did when Jarosław ‘pashaBiceps’ Jarząbkowski walked onto the stage to deliver the IEM Katowice trophy.
And after all of that, we were straight into the first quarter final. FaZe Clan and G2 Esports were out on stage for the ceremony, and they didn’t get a chance to relax – they were straight into their match which started barely a minute after the other four teams had walked backstage.
It was a brilliant opening that would’ve given viewers across the world goosebumps. If the play-offs in this tournament are anywhere near as good as the ceremony, the Counter-Strike world is in for a treat.
Reece is a sports journalist who has previously worked with the likes of BBC Radio Solent, Southern Daily Echo, Salisbury Radio, VAVEL and many more. He is currently studying a degree in Sports Journalism at Solent University.