Thoughts on the subject by two dudes with sometimes varying opinions.
Perhaps foretold by
Neal Hendrix a suspended USA Skateboarding executive committee member who is not to be named, et al., in Atlanta in 1996, skateboarding is now an Olympic sport. Skateboarders are a seriously opinionated lot…and there is, of course, a dearth of opinions on the topic all over the place. Most of these opinions are predictably negative. We’re not that interested in calling people kooks or offering up vapid generalities. Instead, we’d like to talk about a few specifics. Paradoxically, though, we’ll start with the most elemental question:
Should skateboarding be in the Olympics?
Yes. I feel that there are three reasons that this is even a question:
- Skaters are a parochial group and, despite claiming to be progressive, are relatively averse to change. Including skateboarding in the Olympics represents a pretty significant change…and that can be a scary proposition.
- There’s hardly anything more mainstream than the Olympics. Having skateboarding in the Olympics runs counter to the idea that skateboarding is an exclusive club, which it really isn’t, anyway.
- The Olympics means big money. More skateboarders live by the “core is poor” ethos. But, Nike, adidas, and Vans are rich corporations…so where’s the problem?
So…if you let go of these three things, there’s only one answer; yes!
I probably lean towards being more of the cliche jaded, aging, skateboarder whose scope of skateboarding is a little narrower. I’d prefer skateboarding to remain small and humble. However, skateboarding remaining “small” is no longer a reality, and hasn’t been for forever. Sure, I’d love to see professional skateboarders make more money, but not at the cost of our culture. Plus, the cost of the Games is extremely wasteful and they only really benefit a few while displacing a lot of other people.
So, no, I don’t support skateboarding being in the Olympics because, at this moment, I don’t really support the games. Plus, skateboarding will be showcased next to the other lame new events like breakdancing. Congrats.
Why would the IOC want skateboarding in the Games?
All enterprises seemingly focus on youth. Youth sells. And…skateboarding is youth. This is a move to bring the Games to young people in order to keep the Games relevant in the future.
I think this also reflects a trend towards the urbanization of sport, as also evidenced by the inclusion of sports climbing.
And…skateboarding is damn entertaining, much more so than badminton, sailing, and weightlifting. Having skateboarding in the Olympics means eyes on TVs and phones (and…ads).
Eric already said it. Youth sells and, since participation is up for skateboarding, there is no better time for it to be added to the games. But, with scoring being subjective and the average viewer not understanding the intricacies of style and tricks, I doubt there will be a significant spike in viewers. Have you watched a Street League even on TV? It’s about as exciting as watching paint dry. So, I think I’ll pass.
Will the top skaters go?
I don’t know. There’s a part of me that doesn’t think so simply because virtually no big name snowboarders (save for Shaun White and Jamie Anderson) competed in the last Winter Olympics. Skaters also have their personal brands to protect, as it’s quite possible that the haters will turn on them if they “sell out” and compete in the Olympics. And…I’m not certain any top pros would forgo stacking clips for an extended period of time in exchange for perfecting a gold medal run.
But, if I were a premier athlete, I would do whatever it takes to win a gold medal for my country, especially in a sport I love. No one can ever take an Olympic medal away from you, not even the kid at the local skate shop who now thinks you’re a narc.
Well, the lists of the skateboarders representing the United States has recently been released, and it’s not like Tampa. You can’t just show up and register. Here’s the list:
A pretty interesting list, but how were these people selected? Are we really sending the best of the best? Last I checked there wasn’t a trial selecting these athletes. Just look at how stringent the standards are for Track & Field events. The Olympic Marathon Trials will be hosted in Atlanta this spring, and it’s possible the top three men or women might not make the team because they haven’t ran the newest IAAF standards. It’s incredibly competitive. But, out of nowhere we get Torey Pudwill? Sick.
Personally, I think the Olympics should abstain from professional participation. Let some deserving no name amateur represent, not Nyjah.
Who will win Gold?
Nyjah. Seriously, though, I don’t know. It could easily be an ultra-ambitious kid from a country where, unlike the United States, the government funds the national Olympic team (like…China).
Yuto Horigome is going to bring home the Gold for Japan in Men’s Street. Without a doubt. He really is the future of skateboarding. Hell, he could probably win Men’s Park too. I’d love to see Alexis Sablone win the Gold for Women’s Street, and I think Lizzie Armanto will win gold for Finland in Women’s Park. How weird is it that Lizzie is representing Finland?
What about skaters in uniforms?
That sounds adorable to me. Maybe…Supreme will get the contract? If not Supreme, I can only hope it’ll be HUF.
I think I just threw up in my mouth a little thinking about this. Hopefully Nyjah’s shorts over tights faux pas will be the standard. What a dork. Truthfully, I don’t care. I’m not going to watch, anyway.
So…that’s that. And…all that to say, I’m hyped that skateboarding is in the Olympics. I’m going to watch it (and surfing) like crazy in 2020. Keep in mind that there is no guarantee that skateboarding will be in the Olympics in 2024 and beyond. It’s what we do with it when it’s our time that will determine its fate in the future.
The Olympics are steeped in tradition and can bring out the best in our desire for competition. The games also help push the boundaries for whatever event is being showcased, which is amazing. I love the Games for those reasons. With that said, the Games are dying and skateboarding can’t save it. The extravaganza has become such a financial disaster that almost no cities are willing to bid on hosting them. It’s hard to justify sinking billions of dollars on the latest venue and the newest infrastructure just to lose tons of money while displacing people already subject to abject poverty. Maybe if the games changed their format and became hosted semi-permanently at different venues around the world, I’d be much more supportive of it. Only then could I give skateboarding in the Olympics my wholehearted support.