AUTO- Games changer

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AUTO looks back on the successful road safety exhibition and electric karting experience that took place at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, assessing its impact and what it means for the future of motor sport

The FIA’s ongoing co-operation with the International Olympics Committee (IOC) reached new heights in Argentina in October, when the Federation launched a successful interactive  road safety exhibition and electric karting experience at the Youth Olympic Games held  in Buenos Aires. 
Attended by more than 20000 people,  the road safety exhibition featured electric  karting alongside a host of interactive and educational safety installations. Then, to properly showcase the appeal of karting as a sport,  a demonstration of the potential of electric  karts was staged at a nearby race circuit by young local racers.
Speaking at the launch of the road safety exhibition, FIA President Jean Todt said: “For  me, it is essential to continue this work with the Youth Olympic Games to raise awareness and to encourage safer mobility. It is also exciting to be able to complement this [work] with an electric karting experience. This is something that I think will become increasingly popular in the coming years, and will be a fun way for people to engage with what they learn from our exhibition and to introduce them to motor sport in a safe and sustainable environment.”
A long-time supporter of the FIA’s road safety work, IOC President Thomas Bach praised the Federation’s decision to use the Youth Olympic Games as an educational opportunity.

“Every day, the health and lives of thousands of children and young people are put at risk through road accidents around the world,” he said. “Road accidents are in fact among the leading cause of death for children and young people. Many of the children and youngsters are on their way to do sport or training when these accidents happen.

“This is why we joined forces with the FIA to support this global campaign to make the roads safe for young people, because we wantto be part of the solution for road safety. Through its universal appeal and global reach, sport is in a unique position to raise awareness on this important issue. This is why the Youth Olympic Games is a perfect occasion to reach young people and teach them about the importance of road safety. “This exhibition is a great example of the power of our partnership with the FIA,” concluded Mr Bach. “Making the world healthier and safer
for all is a team effort. The world of sport can make a difference in raising awareness about the importance of road safety. Together, we can make the world a better and safer place for our young people.”

By combining sporting experience with road safety education, the Buenos Aires event provided a seamless demonstration of the twin pillars of the FIA: mobility and sport. In Argentina the FIA used a sporting experience to help educate some of those most vulnerable to road traffic incidents, as Peter Bayer, the FIA’s Secretary General for Motorsport, explains.

“The Youth Olympic Games is a concept that combines sports and education, and on the road safety side we definitely felt we had a valuable contribution to make to the educational programme as the Youth Olympic Games are for 14 to 19-year-olds and in that age group road fatalities are the number one cause of death. “As such, we thought that through the partnership we have with the International Olympic Committee [the FIA has been fully recognised by the IOC since 2013] we could contribute in a positive way, showing also our aspiration to do more with the Olympics. When we presented the concept, the IOC was extremely happy with it, and so was the organising committee of the Games. The city of Buenos Aires, who was the partner in this, does a lot of work with young people on road safety education. So from the start, it was a perfect match.”

As Secretary General for Motorsport at the FIA, Bayer says the inclusion of an electric karting demonstration was a logical next step.
“We said, ‘look, we are not only a road safety organisation, we are a sports organisation, so let’s bring electric karting to the event’,” he says. “Electric karting offers a clean experience. There are no emissions, no noise, you can put it anywhere. It’s safe because you can tune up and down the parts with controls, and we could introduce this fabulous sport to an Olympic audience, to the International Olympic Committee members, to National Olympic Committees and to the more than 3 000 young athletes competing there.”

With both streams of the event – the road safety exhibition and the electric karting demonstration – marked down as ‘mission accomplished’, Bayer now wants to advance the cause of motor sport at Olympic level further by pressing for the sport to be included as a discipline at the next Youth Olympic Games in Senegal, Africa, in 2022. The opinion is one shared with the FIA’s Deputy President for Sport, Graham Stoker, who was instrumental in bringing the Buenos Aires event to fruition and who oversaw the funding of the concept via the FIA’s Innovation Fund. Now, he says, is the time for FIA Member Clubs to engage with national Olympic committees in order to forge closer ties with the Olympic movement. “The situation of motor sport has never been better with the IOC,” he says, “and If we start to get this community together then the aspiration of having motor sport at the Youth Olympics in Africa might well come to pass.”

The road to Senegal will not be easy to navigate, however. To establish any sport as an Olympic discipline, certain standards must be met. There are current bans on sports dependent on mechanical propulsion for the Olympic Games, while the Olympic Charter says that to be considered for inclusion ‘a sport must be widely practiced by men in at least 75 countries and on four continents, and by women in no fewer than 40 countries and on three continents’. But Bayer believes the dream is still attainable.

“I think we do have an opportunity,” he says. “We are offering something which is very attractive. We saw the response in Argentina, it was huge – we had more than 20 000 people visiting testing, the whole programme. We were fully booked from early in the morning until late in the evening. “There is a huge attraction,” he concludes.
“It’s fun, it’s safe and it’s offering simply a way to reach out to new target groups, combining it with a strong, educational message. In my eyes, it’s a perfect opportunity to grow motor sport worldwide.”