The prospect of esports entering the Olympics have taken a large step forward after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it will partner with five international sports federations and game publishers to produce the Olympic Virtual Series (OVS), the first-ever Olympic-licenced event for physical and non-physical virtual sports.

The IOC said the OVS will begin on May 13 and run until June 23 this year, ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games which start on July 23, to “mobilise virtual sport, esports and gaming enthusiasts all around the world in order to reach new Olympic audiences, while also encouraging the development of physical and non-physical forms of sports”.

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Several international federations and gaming publishers are confirmed to take part in the OVS, including the World Baseball Softball Confederation, Union Cycliste Internationale, World Rowing and World Sailing, and Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA).

The OVS will consist of five events, each of which will differ in form and concept, the IOC said.

“The Olympic Virtual Series is a new, unique Olympic digital experience that aims to grow direct engagement with new audiences in the field of virtual sports. Its conception is in line with Olympic Agenda 2020+5 and the IOC’s Digital Strategy. It encourages sports participation and promotes the Olympic values, with a special focus on youth”, IOC president Thomas Bach.

The growing acceptance of esports in the wider sporting world could mark a profitable turning point for firms involved in the space including London-listed groups such as esports media firm Gfinity PLC (LON:GFIN), in-game advertising technology group Bidstack Group PLC (LON:BIDS) and esports team organisation Guild Esports PLC (LON:GILD).

It could also prove to be a boon for firms such as Calgary-based Real Luck Group Ltd (CVE:LUCK) (OTCQB:LUKEF), which offer legal, real-money betting, live streams, and statistics on all major esports and sports on desktop and mobile devices.