The Olympics cements a place for sports in our virtual reality future

As the digital and sporting world continue to merge deeper with one another, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is solidifying their connection by hosting the first Olympic Virtual Sports Festival in 2023. 


The inaugural festival is a follow-up to the Olympic Virtual Series (OVS) in 2021, which brought together communities from esports, virtual sports and gaming enthusiasts under the Olympic Movement. The series attracted 250,000 participants from over 100 countries around the world.

In a flying visit to Singapore, IOC president Thomas Bach revealed that Singapore has been eyed as a potential host nation for the festival.

“We would be very pleased to have the inaugural Olympic Virtual Sports Festival here in Singapore,” said Bach during a lunch with the island nation’s sporting community.

The move by the IOC is unsurprising given the rise in popularity in both esports and virtual reality platforms in recent years.

The International, DOTA 2’s official annual tournament, attracted a peak of 2.74 million concurrent viewers in its 2021 edition, while League of Legends World Championships recorded a peak viewership of over 4 million.

Embracing virtual sporting events

Virtual reality is also a key focus in 2022, with some of the world’s most influential companies competing in a land grab.

Facebook famously changed its name to Meta to reflect its newfound focus in building its version of the metaverse, while Apple is heavily rumoured to be exploring virtual reality headsets in the near future.

While it remains to be seen which events do take place during the festival, the Olympic Virtual Series in 2021 may provide some indication. Five virtual sporting events took place in that tournament, namely baseball, cycling, rowing, sailing and motor sport, allowing participants to take part in the action from the comfort of their living rooms. 

According to the IOC’s webpage for OVS, participants of the Rowing Event, for instance, were able to participate by using a rowing machine at home in the living room, in a gym or on the open water.

With an ever growing list of influential entities entering the virtual reality space, due in part to accelerated acceptance of the technology brought about by the pandemic, IOC’s continued mandate and involvement in the space lends a big hand in ensuring its widespread adoption.

The Olympic Virtual Sports Festival is expected to take place annually and act as an in-person finals for the Olympic Virtual Series, bringing together gaming communities and the Olympic Movement in a celebration of virtual sports.

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