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…
- Brad Spurgeon on Motor Sport Olympics
- Pansy Patrol on Motor Sport Olympics
- Grand Prix Games Forum Thread
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.