Words by James Renhard via Mpora
Surfing and skateboarding have been added to the Olympics, and will feature in the 2020 Tokyo games. The IOC, who oversee all things Olympic, have now confirmed the long-held speculation that surfing and skateboarding, along with climbing, karate, baseball, and softball will all be a feature of the games in four years time.
The five sports were recommended by the organisers of the Tokyo games in July, when Mpora called their inclusion inevitable. That recommendation was confirmed yesterday, and the IOC describing them as “a dynamic and exciting package”.
Their inclusion has been thought of as an attempt by the Olympic organisers to capture a youth market for the Summer Games, just as the inclusion of freestyle snowboarding and skiing did for the Winter Games, when halfpipe was added for Nagano in 1998, followed by slopestyle 16 years later at Sochi.
We asked skateboarding legend Tony Hawk about his sport’s inclusion in the Olympic program. He suggested that “skating is more popular than most Olympic sports, both in terms of participation and excitement. The IOC need the youthful energy that snowboarding brings to their winter games introduced to their summer games. They don’t have anything that’s young like that. You know, they’re losing an audience, so I feel like skateboarding would fit right in.”
The IOC president Thomas Bach confirmed this by stating that “We want to take sport to the youth. With the many options that young people have, we cannot expect any more that they will come automatically to us. We have to go to them.”
There is speculation that the skateboarding will feature both separate street and skatepark events. However, it has been confirmed that the five new sports will add 18 events to the Olympic program. Assuming all five have both male and female competitions, that accounts for ten of the 18 events already. Separate skatepark and street skating events would account for a further two, leaving only six, which means that the Karate would only have three weight divisions for both men and women.
All of this is a rather complicated mathematical equation that basically means that separate park and street events in skateboarding is actually highly unlikely.
While the announcement has been widely celebrated by many, there are purists from both skateboarding and surfing that suggest freestyle activities have no place in the Olympics, and that their inclusion is “compromising the integrity of an art form”. However, in May this year, Mpora spoke to some experts in the field about what they thought about skateboarding as an Olympic sport, and their conclusion was, basically, just to relax about the whole thing.
It’s inevitable that there will be detractors, but on the whole, we think that the inclusion of Surfing and skateboarding in the Olympics, along with climbing, is a good thing. When we spoke to Iain Borden, a Professor of Architecture and Urban Culture at University College London earlier this year, he told us that the inclusion of Skateboarding in the Olympics would, in his opinion, “Create more interest in skateboarding and more demand for products. There will be more people skating and buying product and reading websites and magazines, and their advertising will go up.”
“There will be more money in marketing budgets to support art projects, to keep up the pressure on councils for parks and for schools to have skateboarding as part of the PE curriculum. The indirect benefits generally could be quite large.”
Indeed, the inclusion of skateboarding and surfing into the Tokyo Olympics will inevitably bring these activities to the attention of a much greater audience. And yes, this will mean a whole new bunch of kooks trying their hand at them, getting things wrong, thinking of them as sports, and trying to fit in for ten minutes. But so what? We were all kooks once. Hell, they may not even know what a kook is. That wont stop the purists from enjoying surfing and skateboarding in the way they choose it.
Furthermore, it’ll be enjoyable watching Claire Balding trying to get to grips with the difference between a tre flip and a 360 flip, and Gary Lineker’s innuendo machine going into overdrive when he discovers a Bottom Turn is a thing during the televised coverage. And here at Mpora, we cannot wait.