By Jim Taylor, Editor MACS ACtion Magazine

 You probably didn’t see a lot about them on TV (that would be unpaid advertising—gasp!) but track and field events at the London Olympics used a three-car fleet of radio controlled new MINIs to retrieve thrown objects and bring them back to the athletes.  The mini MINIs at the games are designed with special compartments for shot, javelins, hammers and discus.

These 1/4-scale wee beasties seem as cute as puppies as they zip around the grassy field apparently on their own and stopping right by the referee, but really under the remote control of “trained operators” off the field. The Brits love their Mini’s (so do we)  in both the classic and the new styles, and the radio-romper cars have gotten their own rounds of occasional applause from the spectators in the stands. If there was a gold medal for cute, this fleet would have a boxful.

Nicknamed the “Fetch Minis,” the models are just over 3 feet long, weigh about 55 lbs and can carry about 18 lbs of cargo. BMW says their batteries are good for a continuous run of a little over a half hour and can be fully charged in under 90 minutes. (As a note, the original full size Mini was 10 feet long.)

The fleet at work. Interestingly,  the traffic pattern on the field was “keep right”, unlike the U.K’s rules of the road.
BMW is a primary sponsor of this year’s Games and has provided more than 3,000 vehicles for various purposes during the events. The underlying idea isn’t new; RC vehicles have been used as shuttles at many other field events, but observers say this is the first time the cars have recognizable bodywork on them. And of course, that has put some knickers in a knot.

Objectors say using the mini MINIs violates the Olympic’s Rule 50, which bans commercial installations and advertising signs within competition areas. The models do not have any MINI logos on the hood or deck and carry only “London 2012” lettering, but some still say the very recognizable shape of the MINI is in itself product advertising.

BMW U.K. says it is confident that everything is within the rules. One advertising industry observer asked about the models termed it a “canny use” that highlights the challenge sponsors face in trying to get return for investment. Timo Lumme, director of TV and marketing services for the current Olympics, seems to agree: “The Mini is an incredibly known, global British icon. Again, Rule 50 compliant. No logos.”

The mini MINI’s will continue in use at the upcoming ParaOlympic Games in London later this month.

Somewhere, the Elders are smiling….


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