With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics looming just around the corner, we are once again faced with the all-important question: Why isn’t motorsport an Olympic sport?
Previous Olympic Games have seen some rather odd sports: tug of war, club swinging, race walking, solo synchronised swimming and live pigeon shooting. I don’t know about you, but I’d argue that there is much more skill involved in controlling a vehicle than in pulling a rope.
Not only that, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will include golf, table tennis, surfing, sailing and skateboarding in its repertoire. Skateboarding!
It’s a question that’s raised every 4 years, but for some reason, motorsport never seems to make it to the agenda of the Olympic Committee – a decision that all motorsport fans in over 179 countries disagree with.
Let’s take a look at the requirements needed for a sport to be accepted onto this prestigious list. First of all, the sport needs to be recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and for that to happen, it needs to be governed by an international body (which is the FIA for motorsport). Once recognised, the sport then needs to meet the criteria of eligibility set by the IOC –and this is where it gets tricky.
You see, the IOC bans sports that rely on mechanical propulsion. In other words, no cars allowed.
Why the ban? Well, the argument is mechanical propulsion is more of a reflection of the machine’s capabilities than the athlete’s skills or abilities. But what if the drivers all drove the same vehicle with exactly the same specs? Not only would this take away the aspect of mechanical advantage, it also brings the competition’s focus back to the skill of the driver – exactly what the Olympics are about.
And what’s the difference between riding a horse and driving a car? Don’t tell me that horse-based sports rely completely on the skill of the rider because that completely discounts the fact that different horse breeds have different advantages and disadvantages. This means horse-based sports, such as equestrian, are just as much a measure of the horse’s abilities as the rider’s skill.
We haven’t even considered all the other sports that utilise vehicles, albeit non-mechanical ones. An Olympic-approved bicycle, for example, uses airfoil designs to reduce aerodynamic drag – just like cars do. Although bikes are powered by the cyclist’s legs, driving a race car is far from a non-physical sport: the amount of physical exertion needed to counteract the forces and acceleration experienced in the cockpit is nothing to laugh at.
And so, it’s clear that the banning of motorsport from the Olympics is based on some rather hypocritical standards. However, given that the last time motor racing was featured in any Olympic Games was in 1900 (and it wasn’t even official!), we can only hope that the IOC will come to realise this in time for the sport selection before the 2028 LA Olympics.