Competitive videogames may have moved closer to becoming an official Olympics sport after the International Olympic Committee announced plans to hold a virtual e-sports event ahead of the Tokyo Games.
The Olympic Virtual Series will run from 13 May to 23 June and include events featuring baseball and racing videogames, according to a statement on Thursday. This will be the first licensed Olympic e-sports event, though not part of the Games itself. Details of how to participate in the Olympic Virtual Series will be announced at a later date, it said.
Konami Holdings’ Powerful Pro Baseball 2020 and Sony Group’s racing simulator Gran Turismo will be among the games featured, while Peloton Interactive rival Zwift, a start-up valued at more than US$1-billion in a funding round last year, will be involved in a cycling event. Virtual competitions for rowing and sailing will also be featured, with the holders encouraging “online mass participation” that competitors can join from home or training facilities.
E-sports organisers have long called for the growing activity to be added to the Olympics. Even before the pandemic boosted the profile of videogames worldwide, IOC president Thomas Bach said e-sports could one day be considered for inclusion in the Olympics. Those aspirations got a boost when the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China decided to name e-sports as a full medal event. Revenue from the global e-sports market is forecast to top $1-billion this year, up almost 15% from 2020, according to data from market researcher Newzoo.
State of emergency
With just three months to go before the Games begin, and as Japan plans to declare a new state of emergency due to rising virus cases, speculation around the fate of the Tokyo Olympics is growing again. Organisers have already decided not to admit foreign fans, while a decision on domestic spectators has been postponed.
Intel, an Olympics sponsor, had planned to host an e-sports event in Tokyo on the eve of the Games before they were delayed, though it was unclear if the virtual event will still go ahead. — Reported by Gearoid Reidy, (c) 2021 Bloomberg LP