Today Zwift announced their participation in the Olympic Virtual Series (OVS), a new virtual event launched by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
For those of who’ve dreamed of the Olympics but were never able to reach the high standards required, this is a chance to participate in an official Olympic event. How fun is that? Here’s what we know…
The Big Picture
The IOC is working with the governing bodies of five different sports (baseball/softball, cycling, rowing, sailing, and motor sport) to create this series of mass-participation events. Here are the governing bodies and the platforms they’ve partnered with for the OVS:
- 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
- Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) – Gran Turismo, Polyphony Digital
The IOC’s press release on this topic includes a few interesting bits of info:
The mass-participation Series allows participants around the world to compete from home or their training facilities in order to generate excitement in the build-up to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
All five OVS events will differ in form and concept, and will operate via the sport’s respective publisher platform where participants will be able to take part.
In line with Recommendation 9 of Olympic Agenda 2020+5, which states “Encourage the development of virtual sports and further engage with video gaming communities”, the launch of the first-ever OVS supports the IOC’s Digital Strategy and aims to leverage the growing popularity of virtual sport to promote the Olympic Movement, Olympic values and sports participation and grow direct relations with young people. It supports the IFs in further establishing virtual and simulated forms of sports as a discipline within their regulations and strategies. Building on the success of their respective events, both the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), along with other International Federations such as the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and World Taekwondo (WT) have confirmed their excitement and commitment to exploring inclusion in future editions of the OVS.
All of this is in keeping with the “Olympic Agenda 2020+5“, the strategic agenda of the IOC Executive Board which was formulated to act as a roadmap for the five years following the 2020 Olympics.
One key focus of that agenda is the “the growth in digitalisation”, which leads to a recommendation that the ICO “Grow digital engagement with people” and “Encourage the development of virtual sports and further engage with video gaming communities.” In short, the ICO is very interested in exploring virtual competition as a way to bring sport to everyone.
The IOC approached UCI, who are cycling’s governing body, to fulfil the cycling aspect of their agenda. Zwift has a strong relationship with the UCI, having held the first cycling esports world championships in December 2020, which included the Nations Challenge mass participation events. So the partnership of IOC+UCI+Zwift simply makes sense.
Zwift CEO and Co-Founder Eric Min says, “Participation in virtual sports is at an all-time high and Zwift is at the forefront of creating a new genre of physical virtual sport. The Olympic Virtual Series aligns with Zwift’s own mission to engage more people, to connect a global audience, and to speak to a younger generation. We’re thrilled that the IOC and the UCI share in our vision and have selected Zwift to be the publisher for the very first OVS.”
About the Zwift Events
We don’t know much yet about how the OVS events will work on Zwift, but details will be coming at the end of May. We do know that the OVS will be open to all Zwifters and take place between June 1-27.
It appears there will be a competitive twist to some events, but at its heart this series seems to be about inclusivity and the chance for riders worldwide to participate in an official IOC event for the first time. So we anticipate mass-start races as well as group rides, perhaps with celebrity Olympian hosts.
Virtual medals? We doubt it. This is more about the IOC testing the waters of digital competition, and (smartly) using digital platforms to broaden its audience. It’s just one early step in the challenging process of bringing esports into the Olympic Games – but it’s exciting nonetheless!
A New Map?
We’ve known that a map related to the Tokyo/Japan was planned for launch last year before the lockdown cancelled the Olympics. That map still hasn’t launched, but it would seem likely that the map would be released in late May in order to host these Olympic events in June. Fingers crossed!
What do you think of this big announcement? Share your comments below!