Dancers and chessmasters can compete to qualify for the 2023 Olympic Esports Series

Virtual variations on sports like tennis and baseball, as well as recently added Just Dance, are just a few competitions open to players.
Close-up On row of gamer's Hands on a keyboards
Qualifying matches are starting for virtual tennis, sailing, archery, chess, and more. Deposit Photos

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Today marks the official start to the 2023 Olympic Esports Series (OES), with qualifiers set to begin in the coming days and weeks for virtual variations on tennis, motorsports, archery, baseball, taekwondo, cycling, as well as dance and chess. The inaugural Olympic Virtual Series took place in 2021, but this year marks the first time that IOC-sponsored final rounds will take place in person between June 22-25 in Singapore.

To facilitate the matches, the IOC is partnering with major video game and app makers for many of the events. Motorsports medalists, for example, will be determined within Gran Turismo races, while dance champions will prove themselves via Just Dance sets. The officials at Chess.com will lend a hand for players’ opening moves and gambits, as well. However, as The Verge notes, all of the OES competitions are virtual representations of real-life competitions, so there don’t expect to see any Fortnite battle royales or Elden Ring speedruns. There are plenty of other places to get your fix for those.

[Related: Turn your iMessages into a chessboard with this new add-on.]

Both eSports and professional board games often get a bad rap. It may not take a lot of physical strength to move chess pieces across a board, but make no mistake, it’s a sport in its own right. Despite their quiet, contemplative stereotype, professional matches are pretty physically demanding—games can last hours, stress levels are through the roof, and the constant mental gymnastics require healthy diets and lifestyles to maintain the levels of energy and focus required to win. Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen, for example, drinks a mixture of chocolate and plain milk during tournaments to “keep his blood sugar at a reasonable level,” as well as maintains a largely vegetarian diet.

The same can be said for eSports gamers—despite some stereotypes, at least one study indicates players often weigh between 9 and 21 percent healthier than the general population, with many abstaining from smoking and drinking. “When you think of esports, there are often concerns raised regarding sedentary behaviour and poor health as a result, and the study revealed some interesting and mixed results,” author and researcher Michael Trotter said when the study was released. “As part of their training regime, elite esports athletes spend more than an hour per day engaging in physical exercise as a strategy to enhance gameplay and manage stress.”

What’s particularly fun about the OES is that pretty much anyone is encouraged to compete. Registration for the various sports are available via the IOC’s official event portal if you think you’ve got what it takes to go for the gold. Maybe it’ll earn you a trip over to Singapore this June.