Saudi Arabia is set to stage the virtual taekwondo competition next year ©World Taekwondo

World Taekwondo has revealed plans to stage its first virtual competition in Saudi Arabia at the start of next year.

Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh has been confirmed as the host of the inaugural tournament that could feature retired legends of the sport.

February has been mooted as a possible time for the event, although dates have yet to be confirmed.

Jerry Ling, senior director for the planning department of World Taekwondo, told insidethegames that the organisation was in discussions with Saudi organisers over plans for the competition.

"The participants will be mostly Saudis as we want to engage with the local communities, not just athletes and legends of the sport that used to be at a high level in the game and have now retired but we want to bring them in to be ambassadors," said Ling.

Ling said World Taekwondo was also optimistic over virtual taekwondo featuring at the first-ever Olympic Esports Week, which is set to be held in Singapore from June 23 to 25 2023.

"We are in the final stages of discussions with the IOC [International Olympic Committee] about the inclusion of virtual taekwondo in the Olympic Esports Week in Singapore next year," added Ling.

"It will be held in June, and we are positive that virtual taekwondo will be one of the sports there."

IOC President Thomas Bach has already been given a taste of virtual taekwondo having witnessed two concepts of the esports game during the Manchester 2019 World Taekwondo Championships.

World Taekwondo struck a deal with Refract Technologies in 2018 to develop its virtual sport programmes.

IOC President Thomas Bach saw two concepts of virtual taekwondo when he attended the 2019 World Taekwondo Championships ©World Taekwondo
IOC President Thomas Bach saw two concepts of virtual taekwondo when he attended the 2019 World Taekwondo Championships ©World Taekwondo

One of the projects was virtual taekwondo which utilises AXIS - a full-body motion tracking system which allows players maximum freedom of movement to use their bodies as game controllers.

World Taekwondo say the virtual sport will remove physical barriers and create new opportunities for players to compete across genders, weight classes, abilities and geographies.

In 2020, World Taekwondo staged the Online World Taekwondo Poomsae Championships to allow people to keep active at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chungwon Choue, head of World Taekwondo, also stressed the importance of virtual taekwondo being accessible for refugees.

"Of the International Federation, we are one of the pioneers focusing on virtual taekwondo," Choue told insidethegames.

"That’s a big area for us and is especially good for the refugee camps.

"Even though they are in Africa, Middle East or South America they can compete with each other virtually.

"It’s not easy to get travel documents and flights but the virtual taekwondo is easy for them.

"You can watch the television screen and compete with an opponent so that’s going to be very interesting for us."