When the Olympic Games are mentioned, the first thought that jumps into most people’s minds often revolves around the athletes or the venues. Understandably, perhaps, no one really thinks of the car industry.
However, believe it or not, the world’s car makers have played a vital role at the world’s most prestigious sporting event, and not just by being official sponsorship partners! In fact, some are even responsible for bringing home a few gold medals.
So, without further ado, here’s our little list on the world’s auto companies that have, over the years, ‘participated’ in the Olympics.
You’d usually associate Lotus with lightweight sports cars, but thanks to a connection to another Norfolk-based engineering legend – a chap called Mike Burrows – it played a pivotal role in the story of this revolutionary racing bike.
In the late 1980’s, Burrows had been toying with the idea of a competition bicycle that was made out of carbon fibre, but shelved the idea when the International Cycling Union deemed it illegal. A few years later, though, the ban was lifted, which soon got the bike’s development up and running.
Thanks to a friend of Burrows who worked at Lotus, Lotus Engineering became involved, where their expertise in the use of carbon-fibre (there was still a Lotus F1 team back in those days, after all!) made sure the finished creation was ready for the 1992 Olympics.
Image source – The Colin Chapman Museum
And by golly, did it put up a good show! Not only did it end up winning a gold medal during the 4000m race with Chris Boardman on the saddle (the first British medal for cycling in over 70 years), but it also set a new world record time, at just over 4 minutes 24 seconds.
Long story short, it was a hugely important racing bike. With the advent of the Lotus 108, individual pursuit bikes would never be the same again.
Team Volvo Sailing:
Unlike the revolutionary Lotus, this automotive venture into the ‘Lympics is purely for sponsorship purposes only. But don’t be put off by that, as the Team Volvo sailing ventures have resulted in many medallions for Britain over the years.
Since slapping their name on the hulls that the British competitors have entered into the events, Volvo has played a part in bringing back home six medals, four of which were golds, all won at either Athens in 2004 or Beijing in 2008.
With the sailing events just around the corner, Volvo are hoping that a few more will be added to the ever growing collection for Team GB.
Mini…as javelin retrievers?
We all knew that, with BMW being an official partner of the 2012 Games, that Mini would most likely play a small part to play in the promotional campaign as well. And, indeed, they are, but perhaps not in the way you’d have imagined…
For starters, there aren’t any ‘real’ Minis being used at the events, as they’re all ¼ scale R/C ‘toys’ (I guess it ties in with the EV range that Mini is developing?). And secondly, they’re being used to retrieve items such as javelins and discuses.
Which is quite ironic, if you ask us – the Olympics is all about showcasing the ultimate levels of fitness, and along come these ‘Mini MINIs’ that do the courier service for them. Still, at least it’s quite amusing to see little remote control cars zip about the place.
That is, when they haven’t run out of battery power and need to spend 80 minutes or so being recharged…
And that’s our little round-up of ‘Cars in the Olympics’ all wrapped up. But are there any other examples that we accidentally forgot to mention? Let us know in the comments section below.
Oh, and go Team GB!