This week Zwift and the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) announced their involvement in the Olympic Esports Series 2023. Together they will be responsible for delivering the cycling events at the live Olympic Esports Series finals at Singapore’s Suntec Centre June 22-25, 2023.
Zwift Co-CEO Eric Min has long championed the idea of Zwift as an Olympic-level competition.
Two years ago, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) dipped its toe into the water with the Olympic Virtual Series by holding mass-participation events in five different esports (baseball/softball, cycling, rowing, sailing, and motorsport). This series attracted over 250,000 participants from across 100 countries, including 77,000 participants riding over 1.9 million miles on Zwift.
But the Olympic Esports Series 2023 is taking things to a new level. These are official competitions between top esports athletes who will meet in person at live finals events in Singapore.
Cycling will be one of nine esports disciplines at the Olympic Esports Series 2023:
- Archery (Tic Tac Bow)
- Baseball (WBSC eBASEBALL™: POWER PROS)
- Chess (Chess.com)
- Cycling (Zwift)
- Dance (Just Dance)
- Motorsport (Gran Turismo 7)
- Taekwondo (Virtual Taekwondo)
- Tennis (Tennis Clash)
- Sailing (Virtual Regatta)
Who Will Compete?
Open qualification rounds will occur in archery, baseball, tennis, sailing, and motorsports.
For the other four esports (chess, cycling, dance, and taekwondo), qualification has already happened or will happen by other means as agreed by the International Federations in charge of each sport.
For cycling, qualifying riders will be selected from top performers in the recent 2023 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships and the Zwift Grand Prix series. Zwift isn’t sharing the precise criteria used to make athlete selections, but they’re saying selected riders will probably be esports specialists, and selections will be announced in May.
Key Series Dates
- March 1: Olympic Esports Series announced, qualifying window begins
- May 15: Qualifying window ends
- June 22-25: Finals in Singapore
Thoughts on Esports
The “esports” term means different things to different people, but in the broadest sense, esports are multiplayer video games played competitively.
Outside of the IOC events, esports includes games that aren’t attached to real-life sports in any way: Dota 2, League of Legends, Fortnite, etc.
The IOC has chosen to feature nine esports disciplines that also exist as real-life competitions, and the hybridization between virtual and real varies greatly between the nine selected esports. Some of the esports require a high degree of full-body physicality (think: riding on Zwift), while others are simple mobile games played by tapping and swiping on your phone.
If you were to group the IOC’s selected esports by physical exertion level, the “low exertion” group would be:
- Archery (Tic Tac Bow): mobile game played entirely on your mobile device
- Baseball (WBSC eBASEBALL™: POWER PROS): Nintendo Switch and Playstation 4/5 game, played entirely on the gaming console
- Chess (Chess.com): mobile and browser-based game, played entirely on the device
- Tennis (Tennis Clash): mobile game played entirely on your mobile device
- Sailing (Virtual Regatta): mobile game played entirely on your mobile device
The high-exertion group, in which players use their full bodies in physically challenging ways, would be:
- Cycling (Zwift): game runs on various devices and requires the competitor to ride an actual bike as the main input
- Dance (Just Dance): runs on various consoles and detects your real-life dance moves via cameras or controllers you hold or wear
- Motorsport (Gran Turismo 7): game runs on Playstation 4/5 and can be controlled by various controllers, including advanced simulator setups with steering wheels, pedals, etc
- Taekwondo (Virtual Taekwondo): players use their own bodies, equipped with sensors, as game controllers for non-contact sparring
One group of esports isn’t objectively better or worse than another, of course. But as esports competition evolves, it will be interesting to see if the high-exertion, full-body “simulator-style” esports get their own label and arenas of competition apart from pure video gaming esports.
Questions or Comments?
Learn more about the Olympic Esports Series at Olympics.com.
Got comments or questions? Post below!