If you’re wondering is BMX an Olympic Sport we’ve got the answer for you. BMX freestyle will be an Olympic sport from 2020 and BMX race became an Olympic sport at the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing. BMX has always been a fractious part of the cycle industry and with this push for freestyle to become a part of the UCI we can see BMX riders push back against the industry.
Mat Hoffman speaks
Mat Hoffman is a BMX legend, he has invented more tricks than most people have had hot dinners and that could also be said of the injuries he has received to make those tricks. He has not been happy with the UCI running the BMX part of the Olympics and his opinion is taken as gospel by many people in BMX.
For Mat it feels like the UCI are trying to profit from the work he and others have put into BMX and they will not be compensated for this, and more importantly he feels BMX will not be compensated for this. The UCI and IOC need to engage with a youth market, a market that has been passing them by, they want a legitimacy with the youth of today.
They see BMX freestyle as a great way to get this legitimacy, but Mat does not want them to just come in and take what they want and discard the rest. Freestyle BMX, unlike race BMX, has been growing of its own accord and was taken onboard by big events such as the X-Games and the Dew Tour. These huge corporate events have been keen to keep the BMX riders onside and have included riders from the ground up and brought them in as commentators for TV.
Race BMX enters the Olympics
No such thing had happened for race BMX and as such, it was originally brought into the Olympics for the 2008 event. This was also helped by the fact that race BMX was the closest part of BMX to the traditional cycle sports that the UCI and IOC dealt with. Freestyle contests of all types (flat, vert, dirt, park, and street) are run on subjective rules, it is the judges who decide who wins.
Race though is purely objective, first across the line wins. This is a much simpler idea and much easier to set a rule book up for. Race and freestyle had also for all intents and purposes split off from each other around the turn of the century and were run by differing organizations.
The inclusion of race BMX was the start of a plan to make freestyle BMX an Olympic sport. The main problem was that BMX has just been by many to be a sideshow to the “real” cycling on offer, to the older generations who watch the Olympics. How then could the UCI and IOC make race look cool to the younger generation?
Bigger thrills, bigger spills
The idea was simple, bigger jumps because bigger means more excitement. This though has put many people off the idea of racing BMX. The tracks are too big and no longer fun to ride for many people. In fact, by going up in size many in the industry felt that BMX racing had become boring.
Rather than being a shot in the arm for BMX racing, the Olympics just made everything the same. All the new tracks became the same, they all followed the same layout. The other issue was that by using an 8-meter start hill for the Olympic style track they became far too expensive for towns to build.
This was a worry for freestyle BMX riders, currently, every skatepark in the world is different. Every BMX track also used to be different, now they all look the same. Would this happen to skateparks? Would they all become the same?
BMX is suspicious
Freestyle is very suspicious of the UCI and the IOC, not just about the worry that all skateparks would become the same. The riders feel that they will come in and take all the money and leave a bunch of generic skateparks and nothing else. There is also a huge subset of BMX freestyle that feels BMX is not a sport, it is art, an aesthetic pursuit.
For this subsection BMX freestyle can never be an Olympic sport, they will though agree that BMX race is an Olympic sport. This might seem a contradiction but as we mentioned earlier BMX racing is judged objectively. Freestyle will always fight to remain subjective, we as riders do not want to be forced into doing certain tricks like gymnasts are, where is the creativity in that?
BMX freestyle riders want to see riders come to a skatepark and ride in their own way, showcase their own individuality. We do not want to see everyone doing exactly the same tricks over the same spine ramp, as that has become a mandated trick by the IOC. We want to see you find the line no one has thought about and do something different with it. That is what gets people stoked.
Video killed the competition star
BMX freestyle much like skateboarding, skiing, snowboarding, and surfing now has big-name riders who do not enter competitions. They are judged fully on the video and internet parts that they put out. Being a competition rider is somehow now not as cool as it used to be, it is seen as being lame. It is almost like being a nerd at school.
You can make a lot of money and be successful at being a competition rider, but it is not seen as being core. Therefore, the X-Games created the Real BMX competition. Riders film their section and post it on the X-Games website, the core BMX fans can then vote, and this decides the fan favorite. This though can never be judged objectively.
Therefore for us, BMX is both an Olympic sport and not an Olympic sport at the same time. This is not a nice clear-cut answer but BMX is too different to too many different people to have a clear-cut answer. The closest answer could be that BMX race is an Olympic sport but that the jury is still out on whether BMX freestyle can be an Olympic sport.