If you’re any good at Gran Turismo, you might be able to take part in an Olympics-sanctioned event later this year ahead of the Tokyo Summer Games.
The International Olympic Committee announced a “Virtual Series” on Thursday featuring five games based on real-world sports that are recognised by their sports’ official governing bodies. Gran Turismo has an ongoing partnership with the FIA, so it’s the game the IOC will use for the auto racing portion of the event.
The Olympic Virtual Series will take place from today until June 23, while the actual Olympics begin a month after that, on July 23. It’s unclear what format the Virtual Series will take, though the IOC says “additional information on how to participate, as well as prizes included with select events, will be announced soon.” No word yet on whether medals will be part of the festivities.
Besides Gran Turismo, the four other sports federations and their respective games will be:
- World Baseball Softball Confederation – eBaseball Powerful Pro Baseball 2020 by Konami Digital Entertainment
- Union Cycliste Internationale – Zwift by Zwift Inc.
- World Rowing — “Open format” (further details to come)
- World Sailing — Virtual Regatta by Virtual Regatta SAS
The Olympic Virtual Series is the culmination of an ongoing effort by the IOC to appeal to younger demographics through an increased focus on digital entertainment and esports. It’s also a response to the limitations imposed by the global pandemic.
Racing fans will note that neither auto racing nor any form of motorsport is featured in the Olympics, though one such event was contested unofficially as part of the 1900 Summer Olympics. In 2019, the FIA held its first Motorsport Games, combining a range of disciplines from touring cars to GT, karting, open-wheel and drifting. Esports was included as well. A total of 49 nations represented by 166 drivers attended the event.
Meanwhile, the FIA has been working with Gran Turismo developer Polyphony Digital on the FIA-Certified Gran Turismo Championships since 2018 — which is mighty entertaining to watch. Like the FIA Motorsport Games, the GT series includes a Nations Cup component, in addition to a Manufacturer Series where competitors are grouped together based on the vehicle they choose to drive.
In fact, Gran Turismo Sport was initially conceived to allow players to earn some form of FIA accreditation by playing the game, though that element was stripped before GT Sport’s release. It supposedly would have required players to complete the Racing Etiquette portion (necessary to compete in the game’s Sport Mode anyway), register Silver rankings in all of the game’s Campaign Mode events and uphold minimum Driver and Sportsmanship Ratings. It also may have required a fee in certain countries — so maybe it’s for the best Polyphony ultimately ditched the idea.
Through these moves, the FIA has been courting esports and some version of international competition for some time now. This Virtual Series could be the first step toward integrating auto racing into the actual Olympic Games — in both real-life and digital forms.