Celebrating International Olympic Day: The Intersection of motorsport and the Olympic Games
While motorsport hasn't been officially included in the Olympics, its connection remains significant. From historic showcases to the recent esports series, racing cars and automobiles have always been in close proximity to the Games. The inclusion of eSports racing exemplifies the evolving nature of sports and the Olympic movement, hinting at a potential future where motorsport finds its place among prestigious Olympic disciplines.
The Paris 1900 Olympic Games took place amidst the grandeur of the Exposition Universelle. It was not only a display of athletic prowess but also a showcase of the advancements of the modern age. While motorsport was not officially included in the Olympic programme due to restrictions on events reliant on mechanical propulsion, it found its place in the Paris Exposition.
Prominent French car manufacturers such as Renault, Peugeot, Delahaye, Serpollet, Panhard-Levassor, and Huru eagerly participated in the competition. Their goal was to demonstrate their automotive innovations and push the boundaries of what cars could achieve. The races were divided into various categories, each associated with a specific car manufacturer rather than the driver. The vehicles ranged from six-seaters to electric taxis, delivery vans, and trucks, with a strong emphasis on mileage and reliability.
One of the notable events was the Paris-Toulouse-Paris race, which took the form of a "city-to-city" time trial on open roads. It served as a test of endurance and skill rather than a direct race between opponents. Louis Renault, one of the founders of the Renault car company, emerged as the victor in the Paris-Toulouse-Paris race.
Despite the recognition and medals awarded to the winners, motorsport remained excluded from the official Olympic programme due to its reliance on mechanical propulsion. Consequently, motorsport's association with the Olympic Games was limited to racetracks that served as Olympic venues or to athletes who pursued both racing and Olympic sporting careers.
In 2012, a significant change occurred when the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), the governing body for motorsports, received official recognition from the International Olympic Committee (IOC). By becoming a member of the IOC's Association of Recognised International Sports Federations (ARISF), the FIA aligned itself with the Olympic spirit, signalling a closer connection between motorsport and the Olympics.
Six years later, discussions and plans began to emerge to integrate motorsport into the Olympic Games. The FIA, now embracing the Olympic spirit, has actively explored avenues to merge the worlds of motorsport and the Olympics.
Karting at the Youth Olympic Games
At the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, an e-karting race was added as a demonstration event, marking the first inclusion of motorsport in the Olympics. Although no medals were awarded, the race displayed the potential for karting to become an Olympic sport.
Held at the Kartodromo in Autodromo Juan y Oscar Galvez, the race featured 12 drivers, six boys and six girls, representing various nations. Each kart was raced by mixed-gender teams, emphasising gender equality.
Franco Colapinto and María García Puig from Argentina secured pole positions and emerged as winners. Colapinto's success in the e-karting race further propelled his racing career, leading him to participate in the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2021.
The inclusion of e-karting at the Youth Olympic Games fueled the ambition of Felipe Massa, FIA karting president and former Formula 1 driver, to push for karting's inclusion in the official Olympic programme, targeting the Paris 2024 Olympics.
Olympics and eSports racing
In 2021, the FIA and the IOC collaborated on the Olympic Virtual Series, an initiative to embrace esports and engage younger audiences. Motorsport was included as a featured event, specifically the FIA Gran Turismo Championships within Gran Turismo Sport.
The virtual racing experience aimed to replicate real-world motorsport, with players using steering wheels and pedals for a realistic feel. While some elements like speed and g-forces were absent, the skill and precision required closely mirrored real racing.
The motorsport event attracted approximately 1.4 million entries from over 45,000 gamers, showcasing the popularity of esports within the motorsport community.
Participants went through a qualification stage with a 10-day time trial challenge. The top 16 gamers advanced to the World Finals, featuring three races. The total number of points earned during all three races determined the winner. Valerio Gallo of Italy emerged as the champion.
The inclusion of motorsport in the Olympic Virtual Series expanded the horizons of sporting competition and aimed to captivate a digitally engaged audience. It strengthened the connection between motorsport and the Olympic Games, paving the way for a dynamic future of sporting excellence through eSports.
As the world of motorsports continues to push the boundaries of human achievement and captivate audiences worldwide, the hope of seeing these competitions welcomed within the Olympic Games remains alive. The inclusion of e-karting in the Youth Olympic Games, as well as the collaboration between the FIA and the IOC in the Olympic Virtual Series, demonstrated the growing acceptance and potential for motorsports to become an integral part of the Olympic programme. With a shared commitment to excellence and the spirit of competition, ongoing efforts to merge the realms of motorsports and the Olympics hold the promise of an exciting future in which these two extraordinary worlds may one day converge on the grandest sporting stage of all.