• Sun
  • Jul 13, 2014
  • Updated: 12:35pm
Column
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 August, 2012, 5:34am

Olympic spirit is fine, but it's the action that counts

It's goodbye Bolt and Farah and back to Formula One circus in Belgium

BIO

Richard Drew has been a writer and broadcaster for almost 25 years. For several years he presented ESPN Star Sports coverage of Formula One. He commentates on a variety of sports, including football, motorsport and winter sports. After working in Asia, Richard and his family now live in England.
 

I've been covering the Olympic Games while the Formula One circus has been taking its break. What a breath of fresh air that two-week festival of sport was. On the whole, these athletes were unheard of, unheralded and thoroughly deserved their all-too-short moment in the spotlight.

These were athletes who generally earned little, sacrificed much and wanted to engage with the public to pass on their enthusiasm for sport. Even the big stars were infectious in their enthusiasm.

I've seen enough adverts featuring Usain Bolt to know he must have an agent and a big bank balance. Yet to see him celebrating with Mo Farah in the stadium (or for that matter with the Swedish women's handball team in the athletes' village), you couldn't help but smile.

A lot has been made in Britain of how they are much better role models than reality TV stars and celebrities generally. This is mostly because they've actually achieved something. Then there is the contrast with Premier League footballers.

These snarling, swearing varieties of athletes earn more in half a week than the average Olympian does in a year.

They would surely turn their noses up at the basic shared bedrooms of the athletes' village (the same furniture the public - myself included - has bought now the east London party is drawing to a close).

It all leads me to think how favourably Formula One might fare if compared with this new public appetite for Olympian virtues. I checked the latest motor racing news after a month covering the likes of handball, volleyball and archery.

I was confronted with the latest on the Lewis Hamilton contract saga, speculation over who is going to be partnering Fernando Alonso next year at Ferrari (although poor old Felipe Massa hasn't been given the elbow yet) and the latest machinations of the teams organisation, Fota.

It's a lot of politics, not a lot of sport; a lot of self-interest, self-enrichment and jockeying for position. An outsider looking into the sport would note people (not just drivers) being paid amounts that would top even the most well-paid footballer.

The grandeur of the team motor homes and the drivers' own bolt holes certainly will put the Olympic athletes' village to shame (although the bigwigs of the International Olympic Committee don't exactly slum it). While the F1 teams are at the track to do a job, they are surrounded by a maelstrom of blinged-up, sunglasses-wearing, superficial celebrities or wannabes. It's not the most attractive picture to paint, is it?

So why do we continue to love the sport so much? I guess once you get past the white noise of everything else connected to F1, it's all about the moment the red lights go out and the racing starts. The next couple of hours are often spellbinding, and that is what keeps us coming back for more. It's the same for most sports, including the Olympics.

For all the build-up, torch relays, opening ceremonies and the like, it's the action we remember, like the 10 seconds of the 100 metres. Having established this, perhaps we can look ahead to the rest of the season relatively guilt free.

Nine races in three months with nobody faintly the wiser as to who's going to come out on top as champion in Brazil at the end of November, it should be fantastic. We get under way again with a cracker in Belgium this weekend. Spa is a fantastic circuit with some of the best features of any track in the world.

If it happens to rain, the fun will be multiplied. Somehow Alonso is 40 points ahead of the pack with a car that is far from the best. Mark Webber will be keen to show he can keep his narrow advantage over his world champion teammate Sebastian Vettel. And don't rule out a surge from behind from Hamilton. He's driven beautifully so far this season, and it's time for McLaren to cut out their mistakes.

This sport may not be whiter than white, but it certainly is exciting. And that is why we continue to watch it, and love it.

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