With all the talk of the FIS taking the reins on the Olympic slopestyle qualifications lately, and the fact that Shaun White says his next real focus will be to get skateboarding in the games I have been doing a lot of thinking on the topic of action sports in the world’s largest mainstream sporting event.
What are the chances Shaun succeeds in bringing the shred to the Olympics yet again? If he does, what will it look like? And finally what impact will this have on another of the sports we love so much?
To answer the first question, in a word I’d say yes. I truly believe that thanks to the success of the winter sports as well as the recent addition of BMX to the games there is a very good chance that in the near-ish future we could see skate make an appearance alongside the other Olympic exercises. The reasons why I believe this are plenty but in the interest of holding your interest I will try keep it to a few.
For starters the Olympics is trying so hard to be cool that there really is no telling what lengths they will go to in order to modernize the games. With that being said let’s look at some of the criteria in place to get a sport included.
The IOC states that for inclusion “A sport first has to be recognized: it must be administered by an International Federation which ensures that the sport’s activities follow the Olympic Charter. If it is widely practiced around the world and meets a number of criteria established by the IOC session, a recognized sport may be added to the Olympic programme on the recommendation of the IOC’s Olympic Programme Commission.”
Of those criteria I fail to see one that isn’t already in place, with the obvious exception of it not being recommended to the IOC itself, but that part is relatively easy.
The sport has mass appeal worldwide, has millions of participants and can be done in more locations than nearly any other sport. Add to that the fact that all you need for a venue in the case of White’s version is a single ramp, able to be constructed in any pre-existing Olympic-ready building. So I think there is a solid case to be made for it as an easy fit. As for the other form of the sport…
…On to the next issue.
What form would “Olympic Skateboarding” take, and here is my thought is that. Any Olympic version of a sport seems to be the least threatening version possible. By that of course I mean the IOC charter speaks in volume about fair play, sportsmanship and a bunch of other things that make the street skating side of the sport a little scary at first glance. Halfpipe skating however, has the ability to transform itself into this clean cut account of the sport, where there is no need to be raw, and rough and get kicked out of your “venue” by the cops. Ramp skating can be seen as Danny Way’s monumental leap in China, or Mitchie Busco, potentially the cutest little nug of a skater ever hucking a 900 and being praised by the elders of the sport. So I think that if and when skate gets in, halfpipe will be the tip of the sword.
Ending off this rant, I’d just like to talk a little about “What impact this might have on skate, and the other ‘alternative sports’”. This is where I feel like it gets tricky. Look at the effect that snowboarding in the Olympics had on the sport as a whole; they decided to put racing in the Olympics years back and the concept of a stiff, ski-style boot still makes some people (including myself) a little nauseous. Then look at what happened when a snowboarder was caught smoking weed (not inhaling, or whatever) great for the public image of the sport that’s for sure.
Action sports are forced to fight for respect and media attention every day, but in the same breathe I don’t know if altering our image to fit the mold of the perfect aspirational athletes is the way to get it either.
Outside of that, think of the impact it has on people inside the sport, who live it, and don’t want to see something they love taken from them and tainted for the sake of fitting in. Terje’s Olympic boycott, and the current issues facing slopestyle are shining examples of that, and it is a solid truth that if we don’t send the best in the sport, no one wins.
So what I am saying with all of this is that the chances of skateboarding, and eventually a host of other action sports cracking the list of events in humanity’s oldest sporting festival are pretty good. But whether or not that is what’s best for the sports themselves, or the athletes who perform them remains to be seen.
As always, thanks for listening,