The International Olympic Committee has announced its biggest step yet into the world of esports and virtual sports, announcing an Olympic Virtual Series before the start of the Olympic Summer Games in five sports. The event, which will be held in cooperation with five international federations, marks the first Olympic-licensed event for physical and non-physical virtual sports.
The event will be staged May 13 – June 23 and feature competition in baseball, sailing and motorsports, which will be esports versions of those sports, and cycling and rowing, where people will compete on machines simulating those sports. The IOC will partner with Dreamhack Sports Games to operate the event.
The move is in line with a recent strategic document passed by the IOC called Olympic Agenda 2020+5 that among other things encouraged the development of virtual sports and for the Olympic movement to further engage with video gaming communities to promote the Olympic movement, Olympic values and sports participation among young people.
“The Olympic Virtual Series is a new, unique Olympic digital experience that aims to grow direct engagement with new audiences in the field of virtual sports,” IOC President Thomas Bach said. “Its conception is in line with Olympic Agenda 2020+5 and the IOC’s Digital Strategy. It encourages sports participation and promotes the Olympic values, with a special focus on youth.”
David Lappartient, chair of the IOC’s Esports and Gaming Liaison Group (ELG), and president of the Union Cycliste Internationale, said: “On behalf of the ELG, as well as the UCI, I am delighted to be involved in the launch of the first-ever Olympic Virtual Series. A number of IFs have well established virtual sports initiatives; and thanks to the cooperation between the IOC, the IFs and the publishers, the OVS is an exciting step forward for the virtual sports world and the Olympic Movement”.
The international federations and gaming publishers that will take part are:
- World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) — eBaseball Powerful Pro Baseball 2020, Konami Digital Entertainment
- Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) – Zwift, Zwift inc.
- World Rowing — Open format
- World Sailing — Virtual Regatta, Virtual Regatta SAS
- Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) — Gran Turismo, Polyphony Digital
Each federaton intends to offer its corresponding event in a format that maximizes online mass participation and prioritizes inclusivity and participation. The series will also allow participants worldwide to compete from home or their training facilities to generate excitement in the build-up to the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The IOC will announce further details on how people can participate in the events, which will be shown on the Olympic Channel.