President Sauli Niinistö is inviting the first e-sports stars to Finland’s Independence Day reception this year.
At least Topias “Topson” Taavitsainen and Jesse “JerAx” Vaikka have been invited, according to tabloid daily Ilta-Sanomat. The pair are part of a five-strong team that won the Dota2 World Championship in Vancouver, Canada, splitting 11 million USD in prize money between them.
Finnish esports celebrities have been largely unknown to the mainstream media and general public, but as huge financial prizes have stacked up, wider society has started to take notice. The country’s top earner, Lasse “Matumbaman” Urpalainen has made nearly 3.5 million USD in his five years on the esports circuit.
Finland’s annual Independence Day reception at the presidential palace is the most-watched television event of the year. Invitations are often a once-in-a-lifetime recognition for exceptional contributions to the life of the nation.
The party features lengthy televised queuing before a total of some 2,000 handshakes with the presidential couple, followed by coffee service, chit-chat and dancing.
Honouring the country's war veterans is also a significant part of the event, so they are the first to be greeted by the presidential couple and to sample the Finland-inspired menu.