The Olympics is currently hosting its first-ever virtual sporting event series, the Olympic Virtual Series, where participants can play virtual versions of five different physical sports: motorsport, cycling, baseball, sailing and rowing. For example, the cycling race takes place in Zwift, where you connect your bicycle and a bicycle trainer to your computer, telephone or tablet. The motorsport competition takes place completely indoors Gran Turismo Sport.
You may have noticed that these aren’t games you normally associate with esports, such as: overwatch, who has previously hosted World Cup Style Tournaments where players represented their country. But for now, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has consciously chosen to organize competitions in virtual versions of physical sports.
“I think it’s fair to say that we remain a sports-based and sports-focused organization,” said IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell. The edge in an interview. “We want to keep the Olympic Virtual Series focused on sports titles.”
While that may sound like the IOC has closed the door on keeping esports out of the Olympics, the Olympics still intend to keep in touch with the esports community, especially as more athletes play video games. “We don’t think there is any mutual exclusivity between the esports community and the traditional sports community,” McConnell said.
The IOC also wants to find ways to support esports players in the same way it supports athletes in traditional sports. “Because elite esports and gaming competitors are relatively new to the highly competitive environment, they have more limited access to resources than athletes in traditional sports,” the IOC said in its statement. latest strategic roadmap, which was released in March. “The IOC recognizes these challenges and aims to adapt several existing tools and resources to support them in different areas, such as gender equality, mental and physical health, competitive integrity and career transition.”
And the IOC sees virtual sports playing an increasingly important role in the Olympics. While the Olympic Virtual Series is not a medal event, the possibility exists that a virtual representation of a physical sport could become one as early as the 2028 Los Angeles Summer Games, according to that roadmap.
To be clear, the actual language in the roadmap does not make that certain. The roadmap includes a “recommendation” to “consider the addition of physical virtual sports to the Olympic program in collaboration with the respective international federations.” But if that were to become a reality, you might expect it to take a similar shape to what’s being done for the cycling and rowing events for the Olympic Virtual Series, McConnell said. (Of the five sports in the Olympic Virtual Series, only those two require players to compete on physical hardware.)
So although we may not League of Legends team soon adorned with Olympic gold medals, virtual sports could one day become an official Olympic event. And the Olympic Virtual Series could be a taste of what that might look like.