Olympics to host first-ever video games festival as it embraces eSports

Olympic Esports Week takes place in Singapore next June  (Zwift)
Olympic Esports Week takes place in Singapore next June (Zwift)

Video games aren’t deemed fit for the Olympics just yet but they are inching closer to the podium.

The truth is that the International Olympics Committee, the body responsible for overseeing the prestigious sporting games, has been cosying up to pro-gamers since 2017. Exhibition matches took place before the summer games in Tokyo last year, including competitions on Sony’s Gran Turismo car racing series and Zwift’s indoor virtual cycling platform.

Now, eSports are taking another step closer to sporting majesty with the launch of the inaugural Olympic Esports Week, a four-day video game festival that will take place in Singapore over June 22-25, 2023.

Headlining the week will be the first in-person live finals of the Olympic Esports Series, which follows the event held before the Tokyo games last year. The 2021 series attracted over 250,000 participants from across 100 countries to take part in competitions in virtual and simulated sports, with additional games including baseball (Konami’s eBaseball Powerful Pro Baseball 2020) , sailing (a Virtual Regatta simulator) and rowing, which had an open format.

Details on the upcoming tournament will be announced early next year. IOC has previously said it prefers simulated sport games over violent games so it’s safe to assume it will probably opt for FIFA over Call of Duty given the choice.

The sporting federations involved with the 2021 event were the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), the International Cycling Union (UCI), World Rowing, World Sailing, and the International Automobile Federation (FIA).

The IOC has not confirmed if any new federations will join the 2022 series yet, but said in April that FIFA, the International Basketball Federation, the International Tennis Federation and World Taekwondo were committed to “exploring inclusion” in future editions.

Also on the cards for the new festival are panel discussions, education sessions and show matches. IOC President Thomas Bach said the event “marks an important milestone in our ambition to support the growth of virtual sports within the Olympic Movement.”