To celebrate the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, we take a look back at 60 years of official cars and Olympic specials. And we promise not to mention Duran Duran, while avoiding any half-baked references to driving in the sand. On your marques…
We start with the Summer Games, before switching to the cars of the Winter Games.
Rio 2016: Nissan
Nissan is supplying 4,200 vehicles to ‘meet the day-to-day mobility’ of the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Among the vehicles will be more than 200 of the Nissan Kicks crossover – the official vehicle of the Games. There’s no word on whether or not the Kicks will be sold in the UK.
Rio 2016: Nissan
Alongside the Kick, Nissan will also supply a fleet including the March (Micra), Versa, Sentra, Altima and Frontier. Francois Dossa, president of Nissan Brazil, said: “The fleet delivery is an important moment for us because this directly involves our vehicles, most of which were produced in Brazil”.
Rio 2016: Nissan Golf Leaf
Meanwhile, back in Blighty, Sir Chris Hoy unveiled a gold Nissan Leaf at the Lee Valley Velopark in Stratford. All Nissan-sponsored athletes who win a gold medal at the Rio Games will also win a special gold-wrapped Leaf to mark their achievement. Ambassadors include Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Max Whitlock, David Weir CBE and Richard Whitehead MBE.
London 2012: BMW
In 2012, James Bond and the Queen jumped from a helicopter, Great Britain won a few gold medals and London hosted the 2012 Olympic Games. As the main automotive sponsor, BMW supplied a fleet of more than 4,000 vehicles, 1,550 of which were 320d saloons.
London 2012: BMW
BMW supplied 10 X5s for towing duties, 700 5 Series for transfer duties, MINI Cooper Ds for on-demand taxi work and a number of MINI E electric cars. BMW paid £50m to be among the top sponsors, but later told Marketing: “It’s a one-off, but it [the sponsorship] is a long-term commitment to sport”.
London 2012: MINI
BMW’s sponsorship of London 2012 ensured we were treated to the sight of remote-controlled ¼-scale MINIs busying themselves with the collection of javelins, hammers, shots and discuses. The so-called ‘Mini MINIS’ stole the show and created a real buzz on social media.
London 2012: Volvo
Volvo wasn’t an official automotive sponsor at London 2012, but its sponsorship of the Team Volvo sailing team ensured it received its fair share of exposure. And it didn’t spend £50m for the privilege.
International Olympic Committee: Audi
In 2013, Audi became the official vehicle supplier for the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As part of the agreement, which expires at the end of 2016, Audi has supplied more than 40 vehicles to the IOC headquarters and Olympic Museum in Lausanne. We could say it’s the most famous four rings supporting the most famous five. But we won’t.
Beijing 2008: Volkswagen
Volkswagen didn’t do Beijing 2008 by half. As a main sponsor, Volkswagen supplied about 6,000 vehicles, including 4,350 VWs, 650 Skodas and 1,000 Audis. Fast forward eight years and although Volkswagen isn’t involved with Rio 2016, golf is. It’s the first time golf has been played at an Olympic Games since 1904.
Athens 2004: Hyundai
Meet Phevos and Athena: the official mascots of Athens 2004, symbolising the link between Ancient Greece and the modern Olympic Games. They’re flanking Tucson: the ancient Greek god of five-year warranties. Meanwhile, the Hyundai Getz was the official car of Athens 2004.
Sydney 2000: Holden
Holden launched a range of Olympic Edition vehicles to mark its role as official vehicle supplier at Sydney 2000. A suitably Australian car was used to carry the Olympic torch for the Australian leg of the torch relay: a Holden VT Commodore. Strewth, mate.
Atlanta 1996: Buick Regal Olympic Edition
Team USA dominated their home games at Atlanta 1996, topping the medal table with 44 gold, 32 silver and 25 bronze. The motivating factor was the thought of the Buick Regal Olympic Edition, with the obligatory gold accents on the wheels and trim, along with USA badges. What you can’t see are the USA badge and Olympic rings on the head restraints.
Atlanta 1996: Buick Skylark Olympic Edition
In fairness, the third generation Buick Regal has aged rather well, making the final model year Olympic Edition quite a desirable thing. Its sibling, the Skylark Olympic Edition, hasn’t aged quite so gracefully. Sadly, despite appearances, the flags weren’t attached to the car. That would have been quite a look, if a little tricky to manoeuvre at the drive-through.
Barcelona 1992: SEAT
The SEAT Ibiza was the official car of the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. This was the Games at which a Unified Team – consisting of 12 former Soviet republics – topped the medal table. Great Britain’s Linford Christie took gold in the 100m, despite SEAT’s best efforts to obstruct him by placing a Toledo (pictured) on the track.
Barcelona 1992: Steve Backley
The thought of a SEAT Toledo waiting for him back home wasn’t enough motivation for Steve Backley to take gold in the Javelin. That said, he did manage to grab a bronze medal. We’re not sure that javelin will fit in the boot, Steve.
Seoul 1988: Hyundai Stellar Gold Medal
This is the Hyundai Stellar Gold Medal special edition – a car launched to mark the Hyundai Stellar’s role as the official car of the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games. The Stellar is a rare best in the UK, with reportedly fewer than 10 left on the road.
Los Angeles 1984: Buick Century Olympia
“Few of us can be Olympians, but some of us can own the car that captures the winning spirit of America’s contenders – the special edition 1984 Buick Century Olympia”. With ad copy like that, how could anyone resist the temptation of a “gleaming white” Buick? Gold accents, Olympic logos on the head restraints and the ability to stand out in suburbia came as standard.
Photo shows a non-Olympic Buick Century.
Moscow 1980: RAF-2907
Riga Autobus Factory (RAF) built vans and minibuses for Soviet state enterprises. This is a RAF-2907, a minibus based on the RAF-2203 and used throughout the Moscow 1980 Olympic Games. Approximately 300 were built, including one specially modified to carry the Olympic Flame.
Montreal 1976: Chevrolet C10 Olympic Edition
Montreal probably wishes it never hosted the 1976 Olympic Games, as it left the city with crippling debt, a construction nightmare and a string of corruption charges. The event itself was overshadowed by 22 African nations boycotting the Games. The Chevrolet C10 Olympic Edition was a little less controversial.
Munich 1972: BMW 1602e
BMW launched the 1602e to coincide with the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. It was used as a camera car and to transport members of the Olympic organising committee.
Munich 1972: BMW 1602e
By BMW’s own admission, its 350kg 12v lead-acid battery and range of approximately 35 miles meant that the 1602e was not designed for series production. But it hinted at a cleaner future.
Mexico 1968: Datsun Bluebird 1300
The Datsun Bluebird 1300 was the official vehicle for the Japanese team at the Mexico 1968 Olympic Games. This example was autographed by the entire team on the last day. Good luck getting your local bodyshop to respray a damaged front wing.
Tokyo 1964: Nissan Cedric Special
This rather intimidating car was Japan’s first domestic large vehicle and could easily pass as something driven by a Bond villain. It’s a 1964 Nissan Cedric Special – the car given the responsibility of carrying the Olympic torch at the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games.
Rome 1960: Fiat Multipla 600
So very Italian! The Fiat Multipla 600 made its debut in 1960 when Fiat supplied a fleet of cars to athletes and officials at the Rome 1960 Olympic Games. If that isn’t Italian enough, Fiat also supplied a fleet of 500s and Lambrettas.
That’s the Summer Games covered, next we wrap up warm to tackle the Winter Games.
Sochi 2014: Volkswagen Group
Moving on to the Winter Games, the Volkswagen Group supplied 3,100 fleet vehicles to the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee. The highlight was the beefed-up Volkswagen Amarok, built to take nine people on the longest off-road journey through a single country. The Amarok Polar Editions secured a Guinness World Record for the gruelling 9,942-mile trek.
Vancouver 2010: General Motors
General Motors supplied 4,600 Olympic-branded vehicles for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games, the vast majority of which were sold off after the event’s conclusion. According to GM, the vehicles were “possibly the best Olympic souvenir of all”, although we’d prefer a gold medal.
Turin 2006: Fiat Sedici
The Fiat Sedici was the official car of the Turin 2006 Winter Games – an event that coincided with the launch of the 4×4. The car was co-developed by Fiat and Suzuki, with the design handled by Giorgetto Giugiaro. Sedici is Italian for Sixteen: 4×4=16. Geddit?
Turin 2006: Italdesign Structura
The Structura was built to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Italdesign Giugiaro, but was also the official car for Turin’s bid for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games. The Structura’s doors were side-hinged, without any central pillar, while the car also featured a flat floor. Most sensational of all was the 5.6-litre W12 engine, which, metaphorically speaking, added 420hp to Turin’s bid.
Salt Lake City 2002: Chevrolet Avalanche
GM supplied a Chevrolet Avalanche to transport the Olympic flame during the torch relay prior to the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games. The relay covered 13,500 miles and passed through 46 states on its way to the Olympic Stadium.
Albertville 1992: Renault
In 1992, Renault lent 1,500 cars to the Olympic Organisation Committee as part of the company’s sponsorship of the Albertville 1992 Olympic Winter Games. The cars were suitably white.
Albertville 1992: Renault
To mark the occasion, Renault launched a range of limited edition Olympic 92 cars, including a Clio, 21, Espace, 25, 19 and A610. Note the Jeep Cherokee Olympic 92 – Renault didn’t have a 4×4 of its own.
Calgary 1988: General Motors
Here’s GM once again, this time supplying cars for the Calgary 1988 Olympic Winter Games. Under the banner of ‘Join Us’, General Motors delivered a range of limited vehicles.
Sarajevo 1984: Citroen and Mitsubishi
Mitsubishi was the official car supplier at the Sarajevo 1984 Winter Olympic Games, with the likes of the Galant, Pajero and Space Wagon used to transport athletes and officials. Cimos supplied the official emergency vehicles, which were based on the Citroen CX Ambulance (pictured).
Lake Placid 1980: Ford and Subaru (US team)
The Lake Placid Olympic Organising Committee was given a fleet of 130 Ford vehicles, while the United States skiing team rolled around in four-wheel-drive Subarus.
Innsbruck 1976: Denzel and Mercedes-Benz
Wolfgang Denzel, a former racing driver, was also the owner and creator of Denzel – an Austrian car company. At the Innsbruck 1976 Winter Olympic Games, Wolfgang Denzel AG supplied 210 BMW, Volvo and DAF cars, while Mercedes-Benz supplied the official fleet of buses and taxis.
Grenoble 1968: Renault
Renault supplied a huge amount of cars for its home Games at Grenoble in 1968. In addition to the Renault 4 (pictured), the French giant laid on Renault 16 hatchbacks and Estafette vans.
Squaw Valley 1960: Renault Dauphine
“Why was La Renault Dauphine chosen as the official car of the Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley? Because La Dauphine is the best car for winter driving! Terrific traction on snow and ice, quick starting in the cold, toasty warm dual-outlet heater”. If that sounds suspiciously like an advertisement, it’s because it is. At the time, the Dauphine was the only small-cylinder car to win the Monte Carlo rally.
Melbourne 1956: Fiat
Here’s Fiat once again, this time way back in 1956 at the Winter Olympic Games in Melbourne. The Italian firm was named as the official car supplier of the Games.
Rover 45 Olympic Impression
Of course, not all Olympic cars are ‘official cars’ of the actual Games. Take the Rover 25 and 45 Olympic Impression, for example. The cars featured ‘Team GB’ and ‘Impression’ livery, with early customers qualifying for a free ‘Active bag’, whatever that is.
Rover Streetwise Olympic
Another patriotic homegrown car, this time in the form of the Rover Streetwise Olympic SE. The car was launched in 2004, with each one finished in light blue and riding on 17-inch alloy wheels.
Buick Regal Olympic Edition
And here’s yet another Buick Olympic special, this time in the form of the Regal Olympic Edition. Built to commemorate Buick’s support for Team USA at the 2004 Sydney Olympic Games, the Regal joined other Olympic specials, such as the 1984 Century Olympia, 1988 LeSabre Olympia and 1989 Olympic Regal.
Nissan March Rio 2016
Bringing us right up to date is the Nissan March Rio 2016. Limited to 1,000 models, the March (Micra) features details in ‘Hot Orange’ – a colour that “represents the fun, heat, energy and boldness exhibited by Olympic athletes”. At least that’s what it says here.