Motorsports Were a Part of the Olympics, Once Upon a Time

The Olympics is known for racing. Sometimes it includes racing on a track, in a pool, or on skis. There is probably an Olympic race for it if there is a way to move, except for car racing. 

Many have contemplated and even complained as to why car racing isn’t included in the international tournament. After all, Formula One drivers are internationally celebrated. Not to mention that multinational car companies sponsor youth racing programs around the world. It seems that some form of motorized racing would attract a large audience. 

Oddly enough, car racing was an event at the second Olympics in 1900. It was quite different from the strategies used for modern-day racing. Here is our look back at the car races held at the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris.

Multiple racing events

White Olympic rings painted on a green building with a blurred tree in the foreground to the left.
Olympic rings

The 1900 Summer Olympics, or II Olympiad as it was known then, had several racing events. Some of which may sound odd compared to today’s racing standards. There were three events that included 2 seater cars, which may have appeared like a prototype NASCAR race, although NASCAR has an illegal origin story.

Other events included 4-seaters and 6-seaters. There was a race of gasoline and electric taxis. However, how these taxi races differed from the 4-seater race is unclear. 

Perhaps the most intriguing was the race of fire trucks: an exciting event, no doubt. If the fire truck race isn’t exciting enough for you, then perhaps the race of delivery trucks is more fitting. The delivery truck race was also divided into two categories: electric and gasoline. 

Winning drivers were unrecognized

According to The Olympians, the winning drivers went unrecognized. Instead, the manufacturers were considered the true winners.  While about 45 medals were awarded, none went to the actual drivers.

Due to poor record-keeping, we only know the names of a few of the drivers who competed. One of those was Gilbert Brown, the American who came first in the fire truck race. 

France utilized their home field advantage during these Olympic car races. Different French manufacturers dominated all the racing categories, taking a medal in nearly everyone. Not bad for a country that celebrates New Year’s Eve by burning hundreds of cars

However, Jalopnik reports that none of these races were “official” Olympic events. While winners were given medals, the International Olympic Committee does not consider these races to be legitimate. We think the International Olympic Committee should reconsider. 

Will racing ever be an official Olympic sport?

The Olympic committee is always adding and removing sports based on their fluctuating popularity. Some notable additions to this Olympics include rock climbing, skateboarding, and baseball. Will automobile racing ever join the ranks as an Olympic sport?

In a way, it already has. At least in the virtual sense. This summer in Tokyo, there will be competitions in the ‘sport’ of FIA Gran Turismo, the popular video game. Motorsports aren’t the only digital manifestation in this Olympics. Other video games include baseball, cycling, rowing, and sailing. 

While it is easy to be cynical and declare that this isn’t real racing or a real sport, professionals may disagree. The Association for Psychological Science has actually declared that the skills for video games and motorsports are quite similar. So much so that video games can be used to train people how to drive. Of course, video games will never have the same risk associated with real-life racing, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be popular. 

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