Olympics Go Digital With First-Ever Virtual Series


The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will work with five international sports federations (IFs) and game publishers to produce the Olympic Virtual Series (OVS), the first-ever Olympic-licensed event for physical and non-physical virtual sports.

The series will run from May 13 to June 23 and take place ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, according to a Thursday (April 22) announcement.

The committee says this series will allow participants from around the world to compete from home or in training facilities to build excitement in the weeks leading to the Summer Olympic games in Tokyo.

Initially scheduled for last year, the games — still referred to as Tokyo 2020 by the IOC — were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The games will begin July 23 and end Aug. 8.

“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 in a news release. “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.”

Participants in the OVS include the 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; and Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) – Gran Turismo, Polyphony Digital.

“The OVS creates a stage to connect the physical sporting world with the virtual and simulation sports gaming community, providing an opportunity to engage with the Olympic Movement,” the news release says. “Each IF will offer its corresponding event in a format that maximises online mass participation and prioritises inclusivity and participation through the OVS.”

While mastering electronic sports may not take the same type of work as, say, training for the triathlon, that doesn’t mean they aren’t big business.

As PYMNTS reported earlier this year, it’s not unheard of for athletes in this world to sign multi-million dollar endorsement deals, like the $30 million one eSports superstar Tyler Blevins — aka “Ninja” — inked with Microsoft last year.