BMX is one of the newest Olympic events, giving riders a chance to compete in the most prestigious sports event in the world. When exactly did it start being competed in at the Olympics?

When Did BMX Become an Olympic Sport

In 2008, BMX racing was included in the Olympic Games for the first time in Beijing. Even though there were medal events for both sexes, BMX freestyle could only be entered as a demonstration event. BMX freestyle was introduced as a medal sport at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is a strong organisation, and like any new entry to the Olympic stage, BMX has to cross a number of barriers to earn its place.

When Did BMX Become an Olympic Sport

In spite of this, BMX racing and BMX freestyle have consistently drawn large crowds to events and large audiences to televised broadcasts.

A New Era for BMX

After around 40 years of development, BMX finally made it into the Olympics. BMX, which is essentially the bicycle equivalent of motocross, is a fantastic spectacle to behold, full of tricks and spills in a variety of formats. But from what was it all started?

It was on the West Coast of the United States that BMX first gained popularity in the early 1970s. Youngsters were already riding their bikes at high speeds on dirt courses and pulling off incredible stunts in an attempt to mimic the motocross scene.

The first BMX race was not organised until 1974, and its forefather, Scott Breithaupt, is widely regarded as the sport’s progenitor.

Structure for BMX was greatly aided by the founding of the American Bicycle Association (ABA) in 1977. In addition to becoming the first national BMX sanctioning body, the ABA also pioneered the use of electronic starting gates and other advancements.

BMX was beginning to implement some of the policies and procedures that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) requires of medal sports.

A spot in the Olympic Games

The sport of BMX needed to acquire more attention and participants from all around the world before it could even be considered for inclusion in the Olympics. This was accomplished, as the thrilling races, which typically last between 30 and 40 seconds, attracted fans from all over the world, not only in the United States.

The inaugural BMX World Championships were held in Dayton, Ohio, in 1982. In turn, this caused yet another major step forward for the sport of BMX racing. The Union Cycliste International (UCI) is the international regulatory body for cycling and has been in charge of all major international cycling competitions since 1993, including BMX.

Now, BMX was governed by the same group that handled road racing and other more traditional forms of cycling. Formerly considered more of a “underground” activity, BMX is now firmly established as a legitimate subgenre of cycling.

Ten years later, the UCI attended the IOC meeting in Prague. They made their case for BMX to be an Olympic sport here.

Settling in for 2008

At least one aspect of BMX was about to be unveiled in its entirety. Whereas BMX racing will be a medal event in Beijing, the equally impressive BMX freestyle will only be included as an exhibition.

BMX freestyle athletes will have to be patient in their pursuit of Olympic glory. Off-road courses are used for a lone lap in BMX races. Throughout time, both indoor and outdoor locations opened up, and courses were built with banked corner turns and undulations to give thrilling jumps for the athletes.

Most races feature eight competitors and last for up to 30 seconds. As the races begin on a downward slope, the action gets going quickly and the heart rate rises. After years of trying, BMX was finally accepted into the Olympics, where it could finally shine in front of millions of people across the world.

The UCI’s beginning point was the course, and now was the moment to make a statement and an effect. An eight-meter-tall starting ramp was being tested by the UCI for a while before this. At an instant, it was clear that this was not your typical cycling competition.

Eight BMX racers tearing down the ramp at breakneck speed is a breathtaking sight meant to grab the audience’s attention.

Olympic Games of 2008, Beijing

As of the morning of August 20th, 2008, BMX had made its Olympic debut. In order to decide the starting order for the elimination rounds, time trials were held for both the men’s and women’s competitions. There were now 32 men and 16 women ready to compete in the Olympics.

The BMX races lasted for two days, with the first day featuring time trials and the second day featuring the first round of knockout races for the men.

After day one, Friday, 21 August, 16 athletes remained in each competition, setting the stage for the semi-finals and finals on day two, Friday, 22 August. The top four finishers in the men’s and women’s semi-finals qualified to race in the inaugural BMX Olympic finals.

Prospective Views

It appears that BMX racing has joined the more traditional cycling events at the Olympic level. Spectators can get their fill of adrenaline watching either BMX racing or BMX freestyle.

Spectators were barred from the BMX freestyle events in Tokyo, but in Paris, they may finally get their wish. BMX’s profile will increase after its Olympic debut. The sport’s freestyle and racing events will have been witnessed by people who had never heard of or seen them before.

The Olympic Games had an immediate effect on the sport and the psyche of the top competitors, as evidenced by the background stories of the two winners of the inaugural BMX freestyle described above.

Some are concerned that if BMX is only seen at the highest levels of competition, it may lose part of its unique character.

Concerns have been raised that the size of the jumps on BMX racing tracks may deter people from taking up the sport for the first time. Those who are enthusiastic about BMX freestyle are worried that stadiums would start to seem too similar to one another.