Kurt Verlin
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The Sim Racing Olympics Are Really Happening

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Weirdly, the selected game is not a sim racing title

The International Olympic Committee has announced its first-ever Olympic Virtual Series, a bold move meant to capture a young generation of viewers whose interest in physical sports is on the decline. One of the virtual sports will be sim racing.

The IOC partnered with five international sports federations including the FIA — the global motorsports organization behind Formula 1 and the World Endurance Championship. Other virtual sports will include rowing, tennis, sailing, and baseball.

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Sim racing is one of the most popular virtual sports in the world, in part because the skills required to be good at sim racing and real racing overlap considerably. With national and global sim racing competitions attracting increasingly large audiences over the past few years, it’s no surprise it was selected to be one of the five Olympic virtual sports.

However, what was a surprise was the game selected by the IOC and the FIA. Instead of using an actual sim racing title like Assetto Corsa, iRacing, or rFactor 2, the competition for sim racing gold will be held on Polyphony Digital’s Gran Turismo Sport, a PlayStation exclusive designed with accessibility in mind more so than driving realism.

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Then again, perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, GT Sport is the world’s most popular racing game, and the FIA has long been involved in the game’s esports championships. Additionally, the game has undeniably good built-in spectator tools. Finally, it seems too much of a coincidence that the sim racing category at the Tokyo Olympics will use a game made by Japanese developers and sold exclusively on a Japanese video game console.

As a sim racer myself, the announcement has left me feeling conflicted. On the one hand, it’s great that sim racing is getting more global recognition. On the other, it’s a shame that the sim racing Olympics will not use an actual racing simulation.