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International Olympic Committee announces its first-ever licensed esports event: the Olympic Virtual Series


The Olympic Virtual Series event will feature five non-physical virtual sports (Picture: Zwift/UCI)

The Olympics are finally taking their first, albeit tentative, step into esports following the announcement of the Olympic Virtual Series (OVS) event.

There have long been polarising talks of esports becoming part of the Olympics. Last year, the build-up to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 was going to include the Intel World Open which featured Rocket League and Street Fighter V.

Now, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has partnered with five different International Sports Federations (IFs) as well as five game publishers to create the first-ever Olympic-licensed event for physical and non-physical virtual sports.

The OVS will begin on 13 May and run through until June 23 – a month before the official Olympic Games commence.

In charge of marketing and production for the event will be DreamHack Sports Games who specialise in video game tournaments revolving around traditional sports including esport versions of licensed sports leagues.

The five sports featured in the OVS will be rowing, cycling, baseball, sailing, and motorsports. The rowing competition will be an open format in conjecture with World Rowing while World Sailing have partnered with the IOC for a competition in sailing race simulator Virtual Regatta.

Union Cycliste Internationale have also partnered up with cycling represented by Zwift, an app that allows you to race virtually while riding an exercise bike at home. Meanwhile, the motorsport competition will be played on Polyphony Digital’s Gran Turismo racing game with Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile also involved in the event.

That just leaves baseball, the most eye-catching sport on the list. The World Baseball Softball Confederation have partnered with the IOC while the chosen video game is Konami’s rather wordy eBaseball Powerful Pro Baseball 2020. Stylistically, the video game looks adorable with character’s reminiscent of Nintendo’s Mii characters though this is a much more in-depth version of baseball than the Wii Sports’ counterpart.

IOC President Thomas Bach says he hopes the event will appeal to a younger audience: ‘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. 

‘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.’

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