Being more about athletes than their equipment, the Olympic Games have always shied away from motorsport. Several things have always gotten in the way: cost, complexity, and there’s hardly ever a leveled playing field. But now that the International Olympic Committee is embracing digital competition, and with it the potential to equalize racing equipment at a lower cost to boot, the Olympics have shaken hands with the FIA to sanction the first official Olympic motorsport event this May.
This groundbreaking moment for motorsport will be held as part of the Olympic Virtual Series, the organization’s inaugural event for esports both physical and not especially so. Racing in Gran Turismo Sport will fall in the latter category with virtual competitive sailing and arcade baseball, while Zwift cycling and digitized rowing will make up the former.
Starting May 13, all of Gran Turismo Sport‘s online player base will be able to enter the Olympic event through a 10-day Global Online Qualification phase, consisting of a string of Time Trial Challenges. The top 16 performers from around the globe will be chosen to move on to the World Finals to be held on Olympic Day, June 23, when they will compete for points in a trio of races. Like all racing championships, whichever driver winds up with the most points at the end will be crowned the winner.
The Olympics’ long-awaited embrace of motorsport comes as part of its initiative to expand its audience and cultivate new forms of competition, one of them being esports, as outlined in the IOC’s agenda for the first half of the 2020s. In addition to building new or supporting existing competitive esports ladders, the Olympics will also offer resources to support competitive gamers’ mental and physical health. Should the Olympic organization get serious about involving itself in esports, though, it will find it has a big, tricky, doping problem-shaped fish to fry.
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