IOC unveils first ever Olympic-sanctioned Virtual Event Series

22 Apr 2021

By: Sport Industry Group

The IOC has launched a new Olympic Virtual Series (OVS) in what is the first ever Olympic-licensed event for virtual sports.

The move will see the IOC partner with five International Federations as well as game publishers to produce the series, which will include a mix of ‘physical and non-physical’ virtual sports.

The plan will see five different virtual sports take place, with physical events including virtual cycling on Zwift, and rowing, while non-physical esports such as baseball (with game developer Konami’s eBaseball Powerful Pro Baseball), Virtual Regatta (created by Virtual Regatta SAS), and Gran Turismo (created by Polyphony Digital).

The IOC will work with the UCI, World Rowing, the World Baseball Softball Confederation, World Sailing and the FIA on the projects.

Taking place ahead of the rescheduled Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the OVS will begin between 13th May and 23rd June, and will ‘mobilise virtual sport, esports and gaming enthusiasts all around the world in order to reach new Olympic audiences’, according to the IOC. 

“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,” said IOC President Thomas Bach 

“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, and President of the UCI, added: “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”.

Meanwhile, the IOC’s Executive Board has also approved a number of recommendations from a review of Rul3 50 by the IOC’s Athletes Commission, which will make some changes to Rule 50, but will still prohibit athletes from protesting at the Games.

The Athletes' Commission - headed by former Zimbabwe swimmer Kirsty Coventry, who led a review - confirmed that athletes could be punished for making a gesture in support of racial equality or human rights at the Games. The Olympic Oath, however, will be updated to include messaging on inclusion.

The review surveyed some 3,500 athletes and found that 70% said it was ‘not appropriate’ to display their views on the field of play.

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