5 minutes with... Jonathan Edwards, CBE

The world record-holding triple jumper and Olympic Committee board member explains why BMW was picked as vehicle partner for London 2012

By Will Dron on May 1, 2012 12:33 PM

Jonathan Edwards, CBE is a borderline national treasure. He can justly be called one of the greatest triple jumpers to have graced athletics, having claimed a gold medal at the 1995 World Championships with a world-record jump of 18.29m – a record that stands to this day.

Later that year, Edwards was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year before going on to claim the silver medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Edwards then claimed gold at the Sydney 2000 games. 

With such an esteemed athletic record and Olympic pedigree, it’s no surprise that he’s currently sitting on the board of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG), ahead of this summer’s London 2012 Games.

We met up with Edwards this week at the launch of the Olympic vehicle fleet to find out what made BMW the obvious choice as official supplier, and discovered why low carbon motoring is so important for these sporty types.

TCP: How difficult was the challenge of selecting an auto partner for the Olympics?

JE: I think the sustainability targets we set were incredibly high. Being a board member (of LOCOG) you’re a little removed from that – I mean, I hadn’t realised quite how stringent they were. Our target was to make it the most sustainable Games ever…

TCP: The target was an average across the fleet of 120 grams of CO2 per kilometre, and BMW managed an impressive 116 g/km…

JE: Yes, and 116 grams is the equivalent of a Ford Ka, in cars that [for the 2012 fleet] have more than double the brake horsepower. I never realised how good BMW were on this score – you think about outstanding quality cars, particularly towards the luxury end of the market, but to do so within our sustainability requirements I think is phenomenal.

"I think the sustainability targets we set were incredibly high... I mean, I hadn’t realised quite how stringent they were."

TCP: So, was that what made BMW the best choice? Emissions?

JE: The range [variety of vehicles] as well. We wanted a one-stop-shop – as an organising committee, we wanted to deal with one manufacturer. Apart from Citroen, who’re providing the MPVs. But there was no other manufacturer that could deliver the range of vehicles required, from motorbikes all the way through to the 5 Series and everything in between, within the sustainability requirements.

TCP: The BMW Group is supplying 40 electric Minis and pure-electric 160 ActiveEs for the Olympic fleet (to be used mostly for transporting athletes and broadcasters around the Olympic Park, but with duties further afield as well). Have you driven any of the BMW electric cars yet?

JE: No, I haven’t actually.

TCP: OK… have you driven ANY electric cars yet?

JE: No, I’ve never driven an electric car. I’ve driven a hybrid, but I’ve never driven an electric car, so I have no idea what they’re like!

TCP: Really? We’ll have to get you behind the wheel at some point to give you an idea of how good they are. But everyone seems to have some kind of opinion about them – how do you see their future?

JE: If I’m honest, I don’t know enough about them. I know that you have no emissions from an electric car when driving along the road. I don’t know what the implications are in terms of the generation of the electricity and what the environmental impact is further down the supply chain. In one sense it seems a no-brainer to have all electric cars because you have no emissions, but the knock-on impact of that in terms of the supply of electricity would be massive. I mean, it’s not as simple as that, is it? [Jonathan should take a look at our 'Ask the Experts' feature covering this very issue – click here to take a look].

TCP: That aside, with no tailpipe emissions the benefits for athletes – particularly inner-city athletes – must be significant?

JE: In terms of air quality, yes, and not just for athletes, for anybody. That’s kind of the difference between living in central London and being out in the Lake District and places out there… [it’s obvious] how different you feel because of air quality, and emissions from cars are a big part of that.

TCP: Where did you train when you were competing?

JE: I trained mostly in Newcastle, in the North East of England.

TCP: Inner city?

JE: Yeah, although it’s a small city in comparison to London. I don’t think there’s anything quite like London in the whole of the UK. You can be in the countryside within five minutes from the centre of Newcastle, so that was never really a big impact for me.

TCP: What do you think the auto industry’s best bet is right now in terms of fuel, then?

JE: I’d have thought biofuels – when sustainable – is a good bet, whether it’s for generating electricity for electric cars or as the fuel that goes into a car. The idea has to be sustainable – that has to be the goal.

"You have to love what you do and have a passion for it. That’s at the heart of any great performance, whether it be the motoring world, whether it be in business, whether it be in athletics."

TCP: And if you have one piece of advice for a young athlete, what would it be?

JE: I think you have to love what you do and have a passion for it. That’s at the heart of any great performance, whether it be the motoring world, whether it be in business, whether it be in athletics. A passion or a love for something will always drive you beyond simply, ‘I’ve got to do this because I’ve got to earn a bit of money’, or whatever else.

Watch Jonathan’s triple jump world record:

Photo credit: BMW / Rowan O'Duffy