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Radio-controlled mini Mini Coopers get an Olympic track tryout


Radio-controlled mini Mini Coopers get an Olympic track tryout

Driving has never been an Olympic sport, although there were auto races held in conjunction with the games in 1900, and the first marathon runner to cross the finish line in 1904 was disqualified for getting a ride halfway through. But at the London games, the upcoming track and field events will include three mini Mini Coopers — serving as remote-controlled retrievers for thrown equipment. How very 21st century to celebrate athletic achievement by making contests less strenuous for everyone else.

Built by Mini specifically for the London Olympics and Paralympic Games, the quarter-sized electric cars can run about 35 minutes on a charge before needing an 80-minute power-up. The cargo compartments accessed through their roofs can hold 17 lbs. — enough for a hammer, a discus, a shot or two javelins. And just in case darkness should suddenly fall while they're on field, the mini-Minis have working headlights.

With dozens of individual events over nine days of competition, the Minis will cover about 3.7 miles in four-hour shifts every day, and in theory save time by ferrying equipment faster than in previous games. Mini and corporate parent BMW were already using the Olympics as a promotional venue with 200 full-size electric vehicles being used as shuttles for athletes and officials, and getting their cars on the field counts as a marketing gold medal. For 2016, Mini should work on eliminating the radio control and simply having the cars respond to "fetch!"