We have some rather strange sports now in both the winter and summer Olympics. Now excuse me, but how is trampoline an Olympic sport? Or what about ‘race walking’, where fully grown adults walk as fast as possible without running?
Those are just the active ones, but back throughout the history of the Olympics there have been some even stranger ones, like live pigeon shooting, rope climbing, tug of war, long and high jump for horses, tandem cycling and more. Seriously.
But wait, there is even more coming. Come Tokyo 2020 Summer Games, there will also be skateboarding, sports climbing (aka rock climbing) and surfing! Yes, surfing.
Yet, somehow, driving a motorised or electrified vehicle is regarded as too taboo to be an Olympic sport. I know what you’re thinking: the Olympics is all about the idea of man and nature competing to prove they are the best. Yes, because the luge is very much a natural human sport, isn’t it? Sitting on a sled and screaming as one goes down a very steep track feet-first is exactly what the Greeks intended when the original idea for the Olympics was put forward.
Either way, we have horses in the Olympics, so what exactly is the difference between one horsepower and 1000 horsepower? The idea would be simple. The International Olympic Committee would come up with a format and set a single-make vehicle (most likely an electric open-wheeler of some kind for absolute parity and something similar on two wheels) and drivers from different countries would compete in a series of events. Hell, if skateboarding is an Olympic sport, why not drifting? If surfing is an Olympic sport, why not circuit racing or rally?
Back in the days of the ancient Greeks, chariot racing was very much an Olympic sport. Extending that to motorsport is a simple stretch. In fact, the best-ever paid athlete of all time, according to historians, was a Lusitanian Spaniard chariot rider known by the name of Gaius Appuleius Diocles. Over two and half decades he collected 35,863,120 sesterces (old Roman currency) in prize money, which if we were to translate that to today’s money would be around $15.6 billion.
In many ways, motorsport is similar to soccer and tennis. All three sports have very well paid athletes at the top of their game that compete in different competitions all throughout the year. In fact, soccer, much like Formula One, has its own world cup championship, yet it’s still recognised and very much appreciated as an Olympic sport. Tennis is no different.
So why not motor racing? Is there some ill-conceived idea that racing a vehicle or go-kart requires less skill or endurance than, say, skateboarding? Anyone that truly believes motorsport is not worthy of Olympic-level recognition has never attempted to set a fast lap in a race car. The world’s best drivers, if we take Formula One as an example, are not only super fit, but also some of the hardest-working athletes in the world today.
Now, if you’ve been holding back to tell me… Yes, I know of the Race of Champions, which is basically the idea of a motorsport Olympics, but who in the general public has ever actually watched that? Or even heard of it? The point of an Olympic sport is to bring recognition to the very best athletes in their field under a global audience of billions.
As much as Formula One owners, Liberty Media, will like to spruik up their audience numbers, it will never be able to compete with the concept of motorsport in the Olympics. Just imagine the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, our own Daniel Ricciardo, and many others coming together under the international spotlight, with no excuses about engines or tyres. Same car, same track, same conditions, who is truly the best? And they are doing it all for the glory of a medal that brings limited financial gain. Who on earth wouldn’t want to watch that?
It’s a great idea and the concept is perfect for the Olympics. It’s time we begin to honour and crown motorsport champions as the true sportsmen that they are.