Death seems a high price for Australian motorcyclist Andy Caldecott to
pay for racing across the dusty tracks of the African desert, but the
Dakar Rally is a dangerous event.
As The Agereported yesterday, it has taken 23 lives in the last 28 years. This begs the question, is it the world’s most dangerous sporting event?
The short answer is yes. There is no other single sporting event that
can be relied upon to kill contestants with the same regularity as the
Dakar Rally. But when you look at a list of the world’s most deadly
sports, driving at high speed across rocks and dust barely even rates a
50 years ago, track-based motorsport would have gone close to winning
the title of the world’s most dangerous sport, in part because it also
endangered the crowd. In the 1955 Le Mans 24 hour event, a car left the
track killing around 80 spectators. But with every horrific crash,
safety measures were improved to the point where you could say
motorsport today is relatively safe, with apologies to Ayrton Senna.
Sailing takes lives each year, but not all of those who die are
competing in a single race. Freak weather killed six people in the 1998
Sydney to Hobart, but that was tragedy on an unimaginable scale for the
event. In the 54 year history of the event prior to 1998, only two
other deaths had been recorded.
BASE jumping, heli-skiing, diving, mountaineering, big wave surfing and
bull riding also contribute to the annual tally of deaths in sport, but
none of them donate lives as generously as boxing, a sport that may be
the world’s premier Very Deadly Sport. According to the Journal of Combative Sport, world boxing recorded approximately 58 deaths from January 2004 to May 2005 alone.
A mortality rate that high certainly gives the anti-boxing movement a leg-up. Similarly, there are those who argue
the human cost of the Dakar Rally should prohibit the running of that
event as well. While organisers are already talking about how next
year’s Rally will have the strictest safety measures yet, those changes
won’t be enough to change the already horrific legacy of the event.