A ceremony heralding that 100 days remain until the ‘Games of the Future’ has been held at Russia EXPO, which is taking place at the All-Russian Exhibition Center VDNKh in Moscow. The games, which combine e-sports and traditional athletic disciplines, will kick off in Kazan on February 21, 2024. The preview ceremony included a presentation of the games’ trophy, which will travel through seven Russian cities and into space before arriving at the competition. The audience also got to see the event’s official mascots: Mira the firebird and five virtual characters symbolizing the five challenges of phygital sports.
The kickoff of the first Games of the Future in Kazan will bring e-sports and traditional athletic disciplines together in one tournament. The preview event was held at VDNKh’s Space Pavilion; it was attended by both avid gamers and some renowned athletes.
The event began with a video address by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who noted that the tournament works with Russia's image as a country that is open to everything new and welcomes progress.
“The participants and guests of the Games of the Future will be able to see this for themselves when they come to Kazan: a city where different traditions and cultures develop and enrich each other. Russia understands very well the value of diversity, including in sport. Sport is so much more to us than just a test of strength and skill or the foundation of a healthy and active lifestyle. Sport is a symbol and an embodiment of justice, equality, and the human spirit – a way to promote understanding between countries and nations,” Putin said.
According to Russia’s president, the philosophy behind the Games of the Future is based on Olympic values. The new tournament already has participants from 50 countries on its roster, and this is just the beginning.
“There is no doubt that the upcoming games will resonate with millions of people and clearly demonstrate that harmonizing intellectual and physical perfection is one of the absolute priorities of the emerging multipolar world,” he said.
After presenting the trophy, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko passed it on to volunteers. Before arriving in Kazan, it will be driven from Moscow through seven Russian cities and then sent to the International Space Station orbiting our planet. Sergey Krikalev, the executive director for manned space programs at Roscosmos, pointed out that this is not the first flight of its kind.
“Almost 10 years ago, the Olympic flame traveled into space as part of the Olympic torch relay for the Sochi Winter Games. While the torch usually travels through a number of cities before reaching the main venue, we decided to add a detour and deliver it to the ISS in 2014. Now, the main symbol of the Games of the Future will travel to the ISS too, so perhaps it’s the beginning of a good tradition,” Krikalev told RT.
After returning to Earth, the trophy will be delivered to Kazan. According to the head of the project, Igor Stolyarov, in the future, the trophy relay might include destinations outside Russia as well.
“We want to export this domestic project outside of Russia. At least four more countries are interested in hosting these games. We are currently in talks, so I can’t say which nation will be the next host,” he told RT.
The audience at the ceremony also got to see the games’ main mascot, Mira the firebird. This is a bird made of light that represents a neural network guiding humans through the world of phygital sports. The organizers wanted to deliver an entirely new kind of mascot and decided to make it fully digital, Stolyarov explained.
“We’re creating an innovative tournament. It just didn’t feel right to voice this ambition and then present everyone with yet another stuffed animal, like a bear or a beaver. That would be the easiest thing to do, of course, but we want the firebird to exist fully in a dimension that’s different from the material world. It’s an image that’s even hard to capture on paper. It only exists in our virtual metaverse,” Stolyarov said.
The mascot will also have five virtual companions representing the ‘challenges’ involved in the phygital tournament: sports, tactics, strategy, speed, and technology. Chernyshenko hopes that the games’ new format will win over many fans around the world.
“It’s true that our youth needs a well-rounded education. This new movement will help millions of young boys and girls around the world find the harmony they’re seeking, not only by using gadgets, but also by taking part in real sports. The preparation for the games, which will start in 100 days in Kazan, has been in progress for two years. We have held more than a dozen test tournaments. We plan to involve a total of 100 countries and present the world with some new disciplines that have never existed before,” Chernyshenko said.
“We will have new heroes, and I would very much like to see Russian teams among the first winners. The playoffs are now underway, and only the strongest contenders will compete at the tournament. The new format we’re offering is also accessible to all other countries, since it makes use of traditional sports venues and equipment,” he added.
Participating athletes especially liked what they saw. FC Lokomotiv’s forward Artyom Dzyuba asserted that cybersport is the future of sports, while noting that the synthesis of traditional and cyber-sports is very unusual.
“I am proud that my country has come up with an idea like this. In my free time, I love competing with teammates in virtual tournaments online. It’s a lot of fun, and you can learn a lot. They say a large number of countries will participate, including the Brazilians, and they are generally trendsetters,” Dzyuba said.