Olympics Esports Series features chess, Gran Turismo, and Just Dance

A decidedly strange selection of esports

The International Olympics Committee has unveiled a range of games being featured in the Olympics Esports Series, at its official Olympic Esports Week, this year in June. Its selections are, frankly, pretty odd.

The IOC has occasionally flirted with the idea of including virtual events in its traditionally physical environment. In the past, it’s hosted the Olympic Virtual Series, with its 2021 event taking place ahead of the previously-postponed Tokyo Olympics. But there has historically been some resistance to mixing video games, with all its explosions and such, with the Olympic Games.

Enter the Olympic Esports Series 2023, which will culminate in live, in-person finals this June. It’s set to feature nine events: Archery, Baseball, Chess, Cycling, Dance, Motor Sport, Sailing, Tennis, and Taekwondo.

To be clear, it is featuring virtual events of those, using specific games. Here’s the way that shakes out, as well as the organizing body associated with each competition.

2023 Olympics Esports Series titles

  • Archery: Tic Tac Bow (World Archery Federation)
  • Baseball: WBSC eBASEBALL™: POWER PROS (World Baseball Softball Confederation)
  • Chess: Chess.com (International Chess Federation)
  • Cycling: Zwift (UCI)
  • Dance: Just Dance (World DanceSport Federation)
  • Motor Sport: Gran Turismo (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile)
  • Sailing: Virtual Regatta (World Sailing)
  • Taekwondo: Virtual Taekwondo (World Taekwondo)
  • Tennis: Tennis Clash (International Tennis Federation)

Now, if you’re even a somewhat-lapsed viewer of Twitch.tv, you’ve probably noticed these aren’t the games topping the viewer charts each weekend. Games like League of Legends and Counter-Strike aren’t here. Instead, it’s a pretty sports-leaning production, and a bit of an odd one at that. Rather than opting for say, FIFA or NBA 2K, those real-world sports aren’t anywhere to be seen.

Some, like Chess and Gran Turismo, make a good deal of sense, but others are downright bizarre. This isn’t to downplay the achievements of anyone who’s good at these titles, as my Just Dance scores and Chess.com results will show I have little room to throw stones there. Choices like the simulator-adjacent games even seem in-line with the Olympics, wanting to highlight sports in a virtual environment. But there’s also Tic Tac Bow, which some have pointed out has a strangely low download count, and mobile sports game Tennis Clash. It’s a strange selection that feels distant from what any regular esports viewer might want to tune in to watch.

The olympics of esports

Even if the Olympics are trying not to highlight the more shooter-focused sides of competitive games though, there’s certainly a plethora to choose from. Rocket League is right there, having been previously spotlighted at the Commonwealth esports championships in 2022. Tekken makes a great fighting game entry; though if we’re adhering to just one martial art, it would be interesting to see a bracket of Hwoarang mirror matches. (Also, I guess we’re not featuring the beautifully bizarre Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 – The Official Video Game.)

It is, ultimately, a strange mixture of games that ultimately doesn’t represent the current state of esports. Then again, I wouldn’t have really expected it to. Most of the high-tier competitive video games have their own prestigious summits to climb, like The International or Evo. As much as I’d like to see SonicFox take home an Olympic medal, I think these communities were, and will continue to be, best served by the arenas they’ve built for themselves. But hey, if you want to try your hand at Olympic glory in Konami’s eBaseball, registration and qualifying info is live on the Olympics’ site.

Eric Van Allen

Senior News Reporter

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