This year we have seen two large-scale international sporting events (as well as heaps of smaller ones). The world cup for soccer and the Commonwealth Games have both been massive undertakings and have garnered their fair share of column inches and TV time. And I must confess that, along with similar events like the Olympics, I am finding it increasingly difficult to see where the benefit lies in these obscenely expensive undertakings.
I guess it reached its head for me to see billions of dollars being spent on venues for soccer in a country where poverty and starvation are endemic. Venues which will never actually generate any income now that the event is over, which will be ridiculously under-used now that the event is over and venues which, if the experience of other countries is anything to go by, will decay and be pulled down for scrap in the not too distant future.
I find it impossible to justify this when the money spent could have been used for far more humanitarian purposes in countries where such spending could have had positive and life-changing benefits for the people on whom the money could have been spent.
Of course some may say, “Well what about motorsports, your area of interest? Isn’t it also an arena where astonishing amounts of money is spent?” Yes, it is, but there is an essential difference. Whereas athletics and similar sporting events benefit the athletes themselves in terms of fame and (in few cases) fortune, it is hard to see the wider benefit. At least in motorsports there is a tangible benefit that flows to a huge number of people in terms of the technological advances that it promotes, advances which do filter down to the average rider/driver in time.
However, the ethical debate is not the purpose of my article this week. Rather I would like to propose an international sporting event of my own, one which would combine the best of all the things that we love about motorcycling and which would, if adopted, be a sure-fire hit with the fans and the TV networks.
Firstly I must say the idea is an outgrowth from a similar even that provided the germ of the idea. Here let me quote from the Supermoto Australia web site. (www.supermotoaustralia.com)
“Back way in 1979 before the term Supermoto was coined, ABC sport in America devised a for TV only extravaganza called “Superbikers”. It was a fusion of Flat-track, Motocross (Scrambles) and Road Racing delivering a technically superior race style.
The racing was fast and furious, with the same skill sets employed today to navigate the dirt / tar combo tracks. With the exception of smaller jumps little has changed compared to today’s events as evidenced by numerous clips of the events which can be found on Youtube.
The sport attracted the biggest names of the day, including: Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey, Freddie Spencer, Kenny Roberts, Kent Howerton, (double-AMA motocross champion), AMA Grand National Champion Bubba Shobert, two-time GN Champ Ricky Graham, former world motocross champion Eric Goebers and AMA Rookie of the Year Chris Carr.
Motorcycles design was the genesis of what we enjoy today – that is 17′ wheeled, big braked, road tires, long travel suspension (for the day) all bolted to an enduro, motocross or trail bike chassis.
The series enjoyed a stellar success but faded out in 1986, catching on in Europe some time later and rebranded Supermoto.”
So much for the history. I propose that we re-invent “Superbikers” but expand on the concept. I am suggesting a motorcycle Olympic games as a viable (and even more entertaining) alternative.
“The Inaugural World MotOlympics.”
Working on similar principles as Superbikers, the event would be held at a pre-determined venue over a set period (say two weeks) and would enable spectators to take in as many of the different events as possible. In the same way as the Olympics take place at one town or city, keeping this event localised would also make things easier to attract TV coverage.
I envisage that the number of events be broadened with the ultimate goal being to find the world’s most truly versatile motorcycle racer along with providing huge entertainment and advertising potential along the way.
Riders, selected from each of the varying motorcycling disciplines, would compete in a number of different events with prizes and awards for each event as well as the accumulation of points scored going towards a major trophy at the end.
The events would comprise races from at least the following areas (more could be added depending on budget and demand).
Road racing (public street style)
Endurance Road Racing
Provision would also be made for Junior competition within the divisions where it is appropriate and also Womens’ competitions according to the same criteria.
Selected riders would be able to choose the number of different divisions in which they would like to ride with a minimum and maximum number being prescribed. Ideally, the machinery in each division would be provided by the organisers and kept as identical as possible apart from allowing riders to tailor the bikes for their own requirements. Here exists here a great marketing opportunity for the manufacturers to get on board and provide the equipment in return for huge advertising benefits
Plainly there will be divisions where some riders will excel more than others, however since the goal is to determine the most versatile rider, the Champion of Champions, as it were, the rules would be framed so that a certain category of rider would not dominate due to event choice. It seems that the simplest way to do this would be to only allow a rider to choose say, between six to eight divisions in which to compete but with only two of them being allowed to be from their own specialised area of expertise. Yes, there would be some juggling required here but I’m sure it could be done. Since the event is for the glory and the fun, I would hope that riders would make their choices based on these criteria.
Since each rider may end up competing in a different total number of events than another, a “best 5 events” scoring system could also be put in place.
To further ensure that no rider could gain an unfair advantage due to event choices, a pointscore system that is weighted to award extra points for succeeding in events outside of the riders’ field of expertise could be devised. In this way riders would be encouraged to select events outside of their specialised areas (indeed, as above, the rules would require them to do so) while the pointscore system would encourage them to be more competitive in these areas rather than just relying on their strengths to carry them through.
In an age where specialisation is everywhere including motorcycle competition, I see an excellent opportunity here to encourage riders to get out of their comfort zone and for spectators to see their favourites in a whole new light. After all, it wasn’t THAT long ago where riders like Sammy Miller, for example, were competing in observed trials, scrambles and road racing concurrently, so it can, and should be done again.
Now, here is another wrinkle. What if, instead of each rider competing for individual glory, we make it like the REAL Olympics and make it a TEAM sport? Each country nominates a team of a set number of riders drawn from the different disciplines and they compete in their selected events, not for themselves but for their country. The element of individual competition would still be there, but the added incentive for the riders would be that they are also competing for the honour and glory of their homeland. Quite what this would mean in terms of people who are whining about hearing the Spanish national anthem is not my concern here.
Yes, there are difficulties with the concept, some of which I probably haven’t even considered. There is the bugbear of riders’ individual sponsorships and contractual arrangements. Plainly this event would have to take place at the end of the season when most international competitions were taking their summer break. There is the difficulty of finding a city where all of the facilities were available within a fairly limited area (but I think this one is doable). There is the inevitable problem of money; some company would have to be prepared to put their hand up and bankroll it, AND be prepared to see riders who are NOT sponsored by them do well. TV rights would need to be negotiated and permissions from the controlling bodies of the various disciplines would need to be obtained (a monumental task in itself).
In fact, if you look at it like that, it’s clearly impossible to achieve, isn’t it? But what if it WASN’T? What if someone could generate enough goodwill so that all these high-powered people who have all their reasons why it SHOULDN’T happen, could decide that, hell, maybe it should?
Would you pay to see Marc Marquez racing in Observed Trials and Supermoto? How about Valentino Rossi on a speedway slider and an enduro bike? The permutations and combinations are intriguing, aren’t they?
What do you think? How many competitors should we invite and who are they? Do we need to include more events? And, most importantly, who would come out on top? Who WOULD be the Champion of Champions?
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