Should Motor Sport Have A Place In The Olympics?

Should Motor Sport Have A Place In The Olympics?

Every four years or so, usually when the British summer kicks it up a notch and the rain arrives, I end up having the same debate in my head, normally with the same outcome. However, four years ago BlogF1 did not exist, so I guess this time I can open up the conversation to others and hear what you think. The question I ask myself is this: Should motor sport be incorporated into the modern Olympic Games?

Of course, the Games in Beijing right now are proving to be very popular and even Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has been spotted in the stadium with his wife, Slavica. Apparently, Bernie is in China on a professional level, but from a spectating standpoint. From what I’ve heard about the 29th Olympics, the fans have enjoyed the events from well-designed and very organised venues; hopefully Bernie can learn something.

Before I get into the full swing of this post, I should point out that I wasn’t going to write anything about this, deciding instead to not jump on the Olympics bandwagon and concentrate on Formula One. However, regular commenter Stephen asked me the question on Twitter, and after a little thought I decided to change my mind…

There are but three true sports – bullfighting, mountain climbing, and motor-racing. The rest are merely games. Attributed to Ernest Hemingway.

Interestingly, bullfighting, mountain climbing and motor-racing are not part of the 2008 Olympic Games, and while the quote above has been dubiously attributed to Hemingway, most believe that the meaning behind it is that these three sports are dangerous and have a very real-life chance of the competitor dying. According to many, that makes them true sports rather than just games.

So why have I included this quote in a post about motorsport and the Olympics? Well, the Olympics are called games, and while the athletes that take part are certainly finely tuned, dedicated and competitive sports-people, the title of the event is the Olympic Games, not the Olympic Sports.

So, is motor-racing a sport or a game? To me, racing cars is a sport. A game implies that anyone can do it at the drop of a hat. I could, if I so desired, finish off the can of drink I’m enjoying at the moment, take it outside and have a kick-around. And if someone else wanted to join in, we could enjoy a game of ad-hoc football. However, I cannot jump in my car and (legally) go racing around the city. That doesn’t mean that I don’t consider the 100m sprint or football to be non-sports, because they are sports, it’s just that they are easier to do on any level with just about any equipment.

It has been mooted recently that the 30th Games, due to be held in London in four years time, could incorporate a grand prix around the streets of Britain’s capital. The suggestion is perhaps a pipe dream, and I doubt the race would be included in the games, but instead run alongside the main event. But could the race be included in the already long list of events?

The Olympics pitch competitors of different nations against each other. However, Formula One isn’t entirely like this. Certainly, each driver has their own nationality and at the end of the day, it is one driver controlling the car, but behind each pilot is a multi-national team, many hailing from more than one country. BMW for example are a German team, but their base is in Hinwil, Switzerland. Renault are similar, being French but basing themselves in Oxfordshire, UK. These elements, which Formula One prides itself on, could negate the whole country vs. country ethos.

Having said all that about Formula One though, A1GP could work better. The series has coined itself the World Cup of Motorsport and while I don’t really like the idea of it, the standard formula of cars, countries and competitors fits better the idea behind the Olympics.

My main statement regarding motor sport and the Olympics comes down to the fact that although the drivers are supreme athletes in their own right, they are not powering their craft solely by themselves. With the exception of equestrianism, sailing and maybe cycling, all games in the Olympics are solely powered by the men and women themselves. Competitors on horses, boats and bikes are of course very fit themselves – they have to be – but they are also relying on external technology (or animal) to help them.

The one idea I do like centres around a non-championship event coninciding with the games. Much like the Race of Champions, motor sport’s top drivers could come together for a karting race in London and duel it out through heats to see who can be fastest around a track. Wembley stadium, which has hosted the Race of Champions previously would be ideal for a venue and is located in the capital. However, while it would be fun for the spectators and drivers alike, I just cannot see how motor sport can be included as an Olympic game.

Am I completely off the ball here, or do you agree? The comments are open and I would love to read what you have to say on this. Should motor sport have a place in the modern summer Olympic Games?

Some further reading…

And to quickly explain the photo at the top; it is a motorised powerboat from the 1908 Olympic Games in London, the only games to have featured a motorised sport. Incidentally, the weather was so bad that in each of the races, only one boat finished. Thus, only gold medals could be handed out.


  • I agree with you fully that motorsports is a sport, and not a game. The main issue to me is whether an event should be an event by virtue of how difficult physically or mentally it is. For something like shooting, it is all mental, and yet it is still in the Olympics along with decidedly physical events like the 100m dash. If we are going to have these mental activities like shooting, I don’t see why the mental focus of motorsports shouldn’t be included in the Olympics as well.

    I actually go into this in more detail on my own blog, if you’re interested:

  • I read about this somewhere else the other day and to be honest I couldn’t believe anyone had even thought the idea up!

    To me, the Olympics are about people and countries rather than manufacturers. Unless the IOC decided to follow the Race of Champions and commission someone to design a car for them which all drivers used then I don’t see how it would work. Unless every competitor was allowed to use their own car (be it a McLaren or a Ferrari or whatever), but that there was never any mention of who was driving what!

    I also think in F1 there is too much reliance on the machinery – Kimi in a Red Bull wouldn’t win no matter how good a driver he was for example, whereas someone like Chris Hoy could probably take a bike from any other competitor and either win or at least do very well.

    Perhaps that’s not the case, but it’s the impression I get as a layperson watching from the outside.

  • I have had this discussion on a few sites. On Sidepodcast we decided that the only way racing ould be in the Olympics would be if it was karting so that you can have enough identical machines that every country that wants can enter.

    Bernie is apparently negotiating to use some of the roads at the Olympic compley in Beijing as a circuit to hold the China GP as of 2011. Shanghai’s contract is up in 2010 and Bernie either wants a change or he has just started the screw turning process we are all familiar with.

  • There is no place in the Olympics for motor racing. The games are about the sporting prowess of the individual/team not a test bed for technology. It would be impossible to create an even playing field for entrants and any race would be more about the car than the driver

  • I brought up this discussion because Formula One drivers are amongst the fittest “athletes” in the world and should have the chance compete with other athletes.

    I agree with capeplates that “The games are about the sporting prowess of the individual”, however, I do think that an even playing field can be created.

    The cars would have to be contracted out to one supplier and be non-adjustable by the driver. The car supplier would be responsible for looking after cars and making repairs.

    This could work and I think it should, however, I realisticly don’t think it will, which is such a shame.

  • This could work and I think it should, however, I realisticly don’t think it will, which is such a shame.

    I think that in an ideal world, Formula One drivers would be allowed to partake in the Olympics. Simply because of the reasons that they are athletes. Christ, they can race for 90 minutes in Malaysia in god-knows-what kind of heat. But the cost involved for running an equal race for the drivers… that’s too much.

    Just think how long it takes to design, build and crash test a car before it even hits the tarmac. Add in a circuit, marshals, the FIA(?), rules (car-related retirements?)… Then you have to drum up involvement, and quite frankly, I’m not sure the drivers would want to take part. Unless they got paid lots, why would they? They already earn enough from their main job, why prove/humiliate themselves when it isn’t necessary for their bank accounts of future career prospects?

    I don’t mean to be a downer, I actually think it would be great to see F1 drivers in the Olympics, as well as WRC drivers and WTCC drivers. But one thing I really think could happen, and that I actually want to happen. And this deserves a separate line to give it some stature…

    Jenson Button should compete in the triathlon at Olympic level. And so should Lewis Hamilton. Just sayin’. It’s not like I have an opinion on it or anything

  • I know not all routes will be the same, but Jenson completed his last triathlon in 2hrs 22mins 43secs.

    The guy who strolled in last in the triathlon at the Beijing Olympics completed it in 1hr 56mins 50secs – so Jenson would have been quite a way behind!!

    While they are unbelievably fit, I think it has to be taken in context – they train for the sport they are taking part in which means their fitness doesn’t necessarily lend itself to other disciplines.

    I think the main thing about F1 or any other form of motorsport in the Olympics is that nobody should fail in the Olympic Games due to their equipment. If a runner fails to win the 100m or whatever then it should be because they simply made a mistake or weren’t quick enough – imagine Massa winning the F1 race by a mile before his engine explodes in a cloud of smoke. It simply shouldn’t happen.

  • Tennis is somehow is the “Lympics, however Motorsport doesn’t have a place in most of it’s forms, unless the A1 GP is possibly considered. MotoGP is the most exciting motorsport on the planet across the 3 classes and World Superbikes GP (SBK) in the big class and the 600cc Supersport is usually wheel to wheel stuff every race. Both of these forms of racing now have riders from Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey surprising some people and of course the regular World Champions from Australia. In the 125cc and 250cc MotoGPs events the rivalry between the Italians and the Spanish riders has to be seen to be believed. This is what the punters want to see so remember motorsport is not just on 4 wheels. Remember last weeks 09 MotoGP race In Barcelona with many lead changes and Valentino Rossi impossibly passing teammate and local hero Jorge Lorenzo on the last corner of the last lap to win a famous GP and his 99th. Bring it on.

    Oliver, what kind of heat in Malaysia at Sepang? -I can tell you from first hand experience and whilst at Sepang MotoGP 08 in the 40c air temp and 90% humidity. So Ai Gp Round is a possibility as is a round of, say, the Supersport SBK as they are close to a road bike as you can get at that level. Level playing field and already we have riders from Asia, USA, Europe, Oceania competing. Just a thought.

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