There's an article by Alyssa Roenigk over at ESPN Magazine which I've included near the end of this entry in which she states BMX's unpredictability makes it a predictable Olympic success.
I certainly hope so, but if the exposure NBC gave the sport is any indication, it won't be a success. 74 seconds of racing in a 5 minute block not in Prime Time doesn't foster success. That's it, kids. 74 seconds. That was it.
Granted, BMX isn't such a perennial favorite as diving, but compare the coverage of the two. They would discuss each diver before they climbed up the dive platform, they'd show the dive, show the dive again slow-motion, show still shots of the dive, show the dive in slow-motion again, cut to scoring and reaction shots of the diver, then talk about the diver some more.
Now the coverage for BMX. Cut to Costas saying "...and now we go to BMX. I'll be honest, I don't know anything about it. But it's exciting." Then they cut to the track, barely get the obligatory "started 30 some years ago in Southern California" (which is BS, btw,) before cutting to the Start Gate. They don't bother to announce all the racers before the Start Cadence begins. There's only 8 racers, and they don't have the time to announce who they all are and from what countries!?!?!? Not to mention, one of the American riders who was a favorite to get Gold wasn't in the race and they couldn't take an extra five seconds to let us know why?
Then there's just under 40 seconds of high speed racing and it's over. They cut to the women's moto. Same thing, they don't announce all the racers or where they're from. They do get Jill Kintner's name out (yea U.S.) before the gate drops, and again just under 40 seconds of action and it's over. Cut to something else. I think they went back to diving.
Wow, that was...er...crappy. It's the first year the discipline of BMX is in the Olympics. Don't you think you might want to spend a little time explaining what's actually going on for the people that are new to the sport? Which most likely was 90% of the people watching.
There were two big hopes for BMX in the Olympics. One was by the IOC hoping BMX would be the next big thing and bring new interest to the Olympics. Especially among the younger viewers. The other hope was from the BMX community itself. Hoping for the sport to get a much needed showcase and thus gain a influx of new people interested in participating the sport.
74 seconds ain't going to do that, kids.
Neither is not explaining the sport, not interviewing the racers before or after the race, or showing the medal ceremony.
There's not a chance in hell that what was shown on tv was going to inspire one single 10 year old watching it on tv at home to go out and get into BMX.
What about the other press? Most of the articles online were also seriously lacking. Many being carbon copies of each other or downright condescending of the sport and it's fans. The biggest surprise for me came from articles put up on cycling webzines. Webzines that are dedicated to trackers and roadies had some very in-depth, comprehensive, informative, and positive articles on the sport and the riders.
From what I hear, the one other bright spot was those that went and saw it at the Laoshan Bicycle Moto Cross BMX Venue. They were blown away. They went nuts. They loved it.
Let's hope the coverage in other countries was better than NBC's.
BMX's unpredictability makes it a predictable success at Olympics
By Alyssa Roenigk ESPN The Magazine
August 22, 2008, 9:18 AM ET
BEIJING -- If we've learned anything over the past few days, it is that anything can happen at any time. It's a lesson we're supposed to pick up as kids, the first time we're blowing away a group of fifth graders in a race at recess only to trip 10 yards from the finish. The reality is, sometimes our expectations get the better of us.
As we watched the previously undefeated U.S. women's softball team step onto the silver-medal podium Thursday night, or the men's and women's 4x100 relay teams drop batons on their final handoffs, or Tyson Gay and Shawn Johnson fall short of the expectations thrust upon them before arriving in Beijing, we shouldn't have acted so surprised. Some days, David beats Goliath. Clean triumphs over dirty. Heart succeeds over strength. It is why we watch sports.
Mike Day survived a few crashes to land silver in the first BMX competition of the Olympics.
And it is the reason BMX will succeed at the Olympics.
"In our sport, the fastest guy doesn't always win," said bronze medalist Donny Robinson after the first BMX medal ceremony in Olympic history. Neither, as the world watched and discovered Friday morning, does the fastest girl. Or the rider who's leading into the final turn. Any BMX fan knows better than to expect their favorite rider to win -- no matter who they are or how many titles they own.
The sheer unpredictability of BMX racing is what makes it so exciting, and nerve-rattling, to watch. Not only might the fastest rider not win, but he might also not make it out of the first turn. In track and field, a fourth-place finish by a runner favored to win is considered a failure. In BMX, it's just part of the sport.
The rider who wins is often the shrewdest, or most aggressive or fastest out of the gate. And, sometimes, it's simply the luckiest rider that day.
"I think I did an excellent job of showing the world how great BMX is," Robinson said. "I crashed -- a lot -- and I came back from those crashes."
His teammate, Mike Day, who was the fastest rider in the time trials and nearly flawless over the two days of Olympic competition, finished second in the final behind Maris Strombergs of Latvia. Jill Kintner, the lone female on the U.S. team, took bronze in the women's final. Kyle Bennett, who separated his shoulder in Wednesday's quarterfinals, rode all three semifinal heats, but just missed qualifying for the final.
"I separated my shoulder once, and I was laid up for three weeks," Day said. "I can't imagine how much pain he was in today."
Watching a 40-second BMX race is a bit like watching the 400 meters, except the BMX version would see LaShawn Merritt bolt from his lane and dive tackle Jeremy Wariner in Turn 3 to leave just enough crawlspace for David Neville to squeeze through for a win … after completing an oversized obstacle course.
"BMXers can tell you all day why we think our sport belongs in the Olympics," Robinson said. "But the viewers and spectators should dictate that."
The reaction from one of the most internationally diverse crowds at any event at these Games -- the 16 riders in the women's final represented 13 countries; 11 for the men -- should be all the IOC needs to declare BMX a success. At several points during the races, Olympic volunteers walked through the stands requesting that the overzealous fans, "sit down, please." Needless to say, that never happened.
"This is so exciting to watch," said Jerome Pierson, a 38-year-old French fan who recently moved to Beijing. "I raced BMX bikes when I was young, so this reminds me of being a kid."
Which is another reason why this sport will succeed. It appeals to both the highly coveted teen demographic and is equally beloved by parents who grew up during the early days of BMX. And, of course, there are the crashes.
"It's exciting to watch and it's so much like boardercross," said 2006 Olympic snowboard silver medalist Gretchen Bleiler, who was in the stands watching her first BMX race in person. "I think it is going to do for Summer what snowboarding has done for the Winter Olympics -- give people a fresh new perspective. And there's a lot of carnage."
In the first of three semis, Swiss rider Roger Rinderknecht crashed in the first turn -- which ate up nearly one-third of the field at some point over the course of the two days of competition -- slid off the track and nearly took out an NBC cameraman with his bike. In the women's final, Shanaze Reade of Great Britain, the favorite to win the event, caught the back tire of silver medalist Laetitia le Corguille in the final turn, slid out and then watched the other six women pass her as she lay on the track, her gold medal gone. That went to Anne-Caroline Chausson of France.
In his third heat, Robinson caught the back tire of another rider in the first straightaway, flew to his face and cracked part of the visor off his helmet. As he staggered to his feet, the crowd began screaming and chanting for Robinson to get back on his bike. What he didn't see, but the crowd certainly didn't miss, was that another crash had taken out two mid-pack riders. "Pass them! Pass them!" the U.S. fans shouted. And that's what he did, rolling across the finish in sixth place, which secured his spot in the final race.
"I'm happy," Robinson said. "It's been a long road. This medal will be sleeping with me tonight."
Those who believed BMXers wouldn't embrace the Olympics need only to listen to riders like Robinson talk about taking part in the Games. Or, better yet, check out the cuffs of Kintner's jersey sleeves. Before the race, Kintner scrawled notes to herself. On the right, in black Sharpie, she wrote, "In memory for dad," for her father, who passed away in 2006. On the left, "G" for her coach Greg Romero, the word "form" to remind her to pay attention to her riding, and "primal" to remind her to sometimes throw form out the window and react on instinct.
As Kintner rose up out of her seat and her hands gripped the handlebars before each run, she looked at the words for a reminder of why she was here.
"I was wearing my dad's love on my sleeve," Kintner said after the race. "He was definitely there in spirit."
That doesn't sound much like a disaffected action sports athlete.
Which is why BMX is here to stay.
edited for spelling corrections.