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Gran Turismo Is About to Become an Olympic Sport

With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging, in-person racing events have only just started to return. Luckily, sim racing has not only been filling the void but has become a welcome part of motorsports as a whole. Plus, even those not heavily invested in virtual racing can turn a digital wheel through video games like Gran Turismo. And now, there’s even more incentive to spend hours in front of the screen running laps. That’s because Gran Turismo is coming to the Olympic Games.

Gran Turismo Sport will be part of the Olympic Virtual Series

In-game footage of virtual race cars competing in the FIA Gran Tursimo World Tour 2020 Nations Cup Finals
In-game footage of the FIA Gran Tursimo World Tour 2020 Nations Cup Finals | Clive Rose – Gran Turismo/Gran Turismo via Getty Images

No, this isn’t an April Fool’s prank or a typo. For 2021, the International Olympic Committee has set up its first sanctioned virtual sports series. This Virtual Series runs from May 13th-June 23rd, 2021, and features baseball, rowing, sailing, cycling, and motorsports.

All of these sports will be run on virtual platforms. So, for cycling, the competitors will be using Zwift. And for car racers, they’ll be using Gran Turismo. But it’s not the only virtual Olympic sport using a video game. The baseball competitors are using one, too: Konami’s eBaseball Powerful Pro Baseball 2020. And the sailors are, fittingly, using a sailing simulator, IGN reports.

The IOC hasn’t officially released which version of Gran Turismo the Virtual Series is using. However, Gran Turismo Sport is likely the game of choice, Autoblog muses. That’s because the next game in the series, Gran Turismo 7, is delayed until 2022, Road & Track reports. It’s also the version used in the FIA-sanctioned Gran Turismo Championships, IGN reports.

It’s technically the first time motorsports is part of the Olympics

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While the idea of a virtual Olympic sport might shock some, the notion of motorsports in the Games isn’t new. It’s just something that hasn’t been featured in quite some time.

Motor racing was an event back in the 1900 Summer Olympics in France, Sportsver reports. And there weren’t just car races, but motorcycle ones, too. However, the 1900 Olympics also included several other sports that haven’t been part of the Games since, such as angling and cannon-shooting. And at the time, the IOC hadn’t officially declared whether a sport was ‘Olympic’ or not.

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Since then, car racing has ‘enjoyed’ an interesting relationship with the Olympic Games. The FIA, motorsports’ international governing body, is part of the Olympic Charter and the IOC, Sportsver reports. However, in a 2012 interview, then-IOC President Jacques Rogge said that “‘the concept we [the IOC] are having is the games are about the competition for athletes, not for equipment. Therefore, while having a lot of respect, they will not be included in the Olympic programme,'” Sportsver reports.

Now, though, times have changed.

Sim racing, Gran Turismo or otherwise, is a sport

Red-clad racers competing on simulators in the 2019 FIA Gran Turismo World Tour Nations Cup in Salzburg
Racers competing in the 2019 FIA Gran Turismo World Tour Nations Cup in Salzburg | Jack Thomas – Gran Turismo/Gran Turismo via Getty Images

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Part of the reason why the IOC is running the Virtual Series is that it “‘encourages sports participation and promotes the Olympic values, with a special focus on youth,’” Top Gear reports. Esports of all sorts have seen a dramatic rise in investment and participation. And virtual racing, whether on Gran Turismo or iRacing, is no exception.

Games like Gran Turismo have enormous benefits for both racers and car manufacturers. The manufacturers get help with car development and don’t have to invest in a real-world racing program, Top Gear explains. And the racers develop genuine skills that transfer to IRL tracks. Professional drivers use them for that very reason.

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Also, racing video games like Gran Turismo aren’t just fun ways to pass the evening. They make motorsports more accessible, both financially and physically, R&T reports. Instead of having to hike into a distant forest rally stage, you can just tune in on Twitch. And rather than investing thousands of dollars into a race car, you can spend significantly less on a PS5 and some peripherals. Anyone with the determination to succeed can compete.

It’s no wonder, then, that Gran Turismo is going to be an Olympic sport. Because that right there is true Olympic spirit.

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