Having made its debut at the Beijing 2008 Games, BMX Cycling is the most recent discipline to have been added to the Olympic programme. Riders compete in each heat of the Olympic BMX races, which are held on a dirt track usually around a quarter-mile (350-370 metres) long. The events are held on a short outdoor track, with the riders starting on an 8m-high ramp. The course is built up with jumps, bumps and tightly banked corners.
The men’s and women’s events at the London 2012 Games both started with a seeding phase: each rider ran the track once to determine the seedings, which ensured that the fastest riders didn’t meet before the final. The men’s event continued with the quarter-finals, which were held over five races with groups of eight riders.
Points are awarded according to places, and the top-two riders from the first three races in each quarter-final qualify for the semifinals. The groups (now six riders in each) race twice more, and the top two riders from each group of six transfer to the semifinals. From here, the semifinals in both the men’s and women’s events follow a three-run format: the top four riders from each semifinal advance to the final run, when the medals are decided.