Recognizing motorsport as an Olympic event was seen by some as the definitive condemnation of the ignorant, but oft-heard assertion that motor racing “isn’t really a sport”.
The FIA’s recent announcement that this year’s Youth Olympics will include an electric karting event will raise hopes that it may finally come to fruition. However, as FIA General Secretary for Motorsport Peter Bayer explained in an exclusive interview for RaceFans, it’s a plan that has been in the works for many years and could take a lot more to bring about. its fruits.
Why Ekarting is suitable for the Olympics
Bayer has strong ties to the Youth Olympic Games, having hosted the 2012 edition in Innsbruck, Austria. That same year, the International Olympic Committee officially recognized the FIA as the governing body of world motor sport.
The Youth Olympics were inaugurated in 2010, and apart from providing a platform for future Olympians to compete, they also served as a test bed for future Olympic sports. “In Nanjing, at the Youth Olympics in China in 2014, they introduced rock climbing, skateboards,” explains Bayer, “all the sports that were later incorporated into the Olympic program.”
For this year’s Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the IOC and FIA have begun discussions on promoting road safety information. Competitors in the Youth Olympic Games are between the ages of 14 and 18, and road accidents are the leading cause of death for this age group in Buenos Aires.
Talks about promoting the FIA’s road safety message opened up the possibility for him to promote motorsport alongside it.
“Obviously, while my heart beats for the sport, in my conversation with the IOC we basically said that if we bring road safety education, we also want to highlight Ekarting,” Bayer said. .
Ekarting offers several advantages over other forms of auto racing to be considered worthy of inclusion in the Olympics. The absence of emissions and noise associated with traditional motorsport makes it more readily acceptable to host cities of Olympic events.
It also provides a potentially fairer level of competition, Bayer says. “It also ensures an absolutely equal level of performance for every athlete, which has always been one of the issues we have had in the history of motorsport at the Olympics.
“You take a sailboat, they produce a design, a brand, everyone has the same boat. What is the difference between a sailboat and a one-design Ekart? Nothing, because now everything depends on the driver, on the skills.
Announcement | Become a RaceFans supporter and
First race in 2022?
However, the competitors of Buenos Aires 2018 will not yet have the chance to win the first Youth Olympic medals for Ekarting.
“They said, obviously, you can’t just come and have a Youth Olympic event with medals and everything,” Bayer explained. “But we would be happy if you featured sport alongside road safety education.
“So what we’re going to do is we’re most likely in the Olympic Park, which features most of the sports, we’ll have this big road safety tent which will be very interactive, combined with educational elements. And we will offer you slalom in karting all day.
“In addition to that, we’ll do a proper racing demonstration at the Autodromo in Buenos Aires, which is currently under discussion to potentially return to Formula 1. And again, it’s starting to line up because it’s is about road safety, education, the future of motorsport The city of Buenos Aires is very concerned about road safety education, but it is also a big fan of motorsport.
Bayer hopes Ekarting could be ready to join the Youth Olympics when South Africa hosts the event in 2022. Competitors would be drawn from domestic competitions and then compete against each other.
Announcement | Become a RaceFans supporter and
Significantly, the plan is for a mixed-gender competition, as traditionally seen in motor racing, rather than a gender-specific competition typical of the Olympics.
“To take the example of ski jumping, which is a discipline where it is quite difficult to find young talents, they have reduced the quotas to one boy, one girl per country”, explains Bayer. “At the end of the day, not all countries use the quota, so you could end up with 50 boys, 50 girls. That’s something we discuss.”
The prospect of motorsport ever being part of the Olympics is still a long way off. But bringing real motorsport competition to the Youth Olympic Games is a valuable first step, says Felipe Massa, chairman of the CIK FIA karting commission.
“I think it’s amazing,” said the 11-time Formula 1 winner. “We’ve never had cars or motorsport in the Olympics. If they can do that, I think karting is the perfect direction for that.