Monday, August 13, 2012

A note from the Dept. of Modest Proposals: Olympic Trials.

Every four years, the world (or at least the American TV audience) gets exposed to a bunch of sports we don't see at any other time.

I don't know how many other motorcycle racing fans did the same double-take I did, during coverage of the relatively new Olympic sport of BMX racing. Doesn't it really look like motorcycle racing, minus the motors?

BMX appeared for the first time in Beijing, in an obvious attempt by the Olympics to co-opt some of the young fans of events like the X-Games. It really makes me wonder just how hard it would be to include motorcycle sport in the Olympic program.

Not that there aren't some hurdles. While it is normal for Winter Games venues to be as much as 100 miles apart, most Summer Games are held by -- and within -- urban centers. So a full-scale road racing or outdoor motocross venue would be hard to integrate into a Summer Games program. But how different is the above photo from a Supercross venue? Not very.

Some people make the case that motorsport has no role in the Olympics because the machines aren't human-powered. (I guess equestrian events get in on tradition.) But it's clear that any full-distance SX race is a far sterner test of rider fitness than a two-minute BMX heat. And, if you really want to get technical, there are already Olympic events with motorcycles in them -- the Keirin bicycle races. If you want to go back far enough, there were motorcycle races presented as part of the Paris Olympics in 1900, although they weren't medal events. The 1908 Olympics in London included motorboat events, although the current version of the Olympic Charter specifically rules out "Sports, disciplines or events in which performance depends essentially on mechanical propulsion are not acceptable."

But here's my modest proposal: I think the perfect first-motorcycle event in the Olympics should be Observed Trials. It wouldn't present a difficult venue problem at all, whether it was a stadium-style trial like the world indoor championship, or a natural-course event; there's a little bit of rough ground that could be adapted in any host city. It meets the Olympics' need for a base of competitors that's spread across many countries, and it's less likely to result in a serious injury which would obviously be a real Olympic downer. Most of all, since speed is not a factor, it is less a test of mechanical propulsion than of rider skill & balance.

That would give a whole new meaning to the term 'Olympic Trials', eh?

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