BMX Now an Olympic Sport

By: James Johnson

Signifying the International Olympic Committee's growing efforts to appeal to a younger generation by showcasing competitions and athletes they are familiar with, the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing will feature BMX racing. It's true, BMX is now an official Olympic sport; joining the ranks of snowboarding half pipe competitions and snowboarding races now as official Olympic sports. The IOC is appealing to the youth in an attempt to reverse the trend of seeing the Olympics as boring or for older people only.

BMX, short for bicycle motorcross, has been around since the 1960s and the International BMX Federation was formed in 1981. In the last decade the sport has exponentially grown in popularity due in large part to televised competitions such as the X Games. BMX bikes are designed differently from other types of bicycles, typically with very small wheels and in freestyle competitions, mechanisms that allow the handlebars to be spun completely around. At the X Games, BMX is an all encompassing discipline that includes BMX racing and freestyle BMX competitions.

Included in the freestyle disciples of BMX are half pipe (vert) competitions in which competitors ride the half pipe performing complex tricks, spins and flips at each side and street competitions in which a series of ramps, boxes, rails and other obstacles are incorporated into a park course and competitors can choose where and how they want to perform their tricks. The goal in the street competition is usually to perform as wide a variety of tricks off of as wide a variety of obstacles as possible. In the half pipe competitions, factors such as getting the biggest air (how high you soar above the half pipe on your jumps) and trick variety are important.

The IOC is taking BMX one step at a time however. As this is the first Olympic Games featuring BMX as an Olympic sport, the only BMX discipline will be racing. The IOC is officially calling these races Cycling BMX. The races will feature eight riders on a course of 350 meters that includes jumps and banked turns. Considering the popularity of the snowboarding competitions in the Winter Olympics and particularly of the trick-based competitions - it is likely that the IOC will continue to expand it's inclusion of BMX as an Olympic sport. If BMX as an Olympic sport can gain only a fraction of the popularity and exposure that snowboarding gained from its inclusion in the Olympic Games, than the sport will truly be reaching new heights, as their riders continually do so on a daily basis.

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