The International Olympic Committee has announced that skateboarding will officially be added to the Tokyo 2021 Games, held between the 23rd of July and the 8th of August. There will be two disciplines on the Skateboarding programme at Tokyo 2021: street and park. The competition will include both men’s and women’s events, with athletes demonstrating spectacular tricks in a festival atmosphere.
We want to raise awareness of skateboarding’s inclusion in the upcoming Olympics to encourage future skateboarding Olympians to enter the sport and to see our students prosper as much as possible from our lessons. We believe this marks a defining turning point in skateboarding’s history and acceptance, making the 2020 Olympics completely different to any other. In 2012 there were 26 sports contested, and in 2016 there were 28, and 33 are scheduled for 2021.
Similar to skateboarding, we believe Bicycle Motocross racing (BMX) began as a counter-culture sport and it’s success and progression since becoming an Olympic game is a viable blueprint for the future for skateboarding. BMX started in the late 1960s in California, around the time that motocross became a popular sport in the USA, the inspiration behind BMX.
In April 1981, the International BMX Federation was founded and BMX rapidly developed into a unique sport, officially being recognised in 1993 when it was fully integrated into the International Cycling Union (UCI). The sport made its Olympic debut at the 2008 Beijing Games. The men’s event was won by Latvia’s Maris Strombergs and the women’s event was won by France’s Anne-Caroline Chausson who took the first Olympic title in this discipline. For the first time BMXers were credited and awarded for the efforts and contributions on an Olympic stage.
BMX is one of the fastest and youngest cycling disciplines where eight riders compete on a track filled with jumps, tight bends and obstacles. At its introduction, BMX was compared to cycling, which has been at every Summer Olympic Games since the birth of the modern Olympic movement in 1896, with mountain bike racing joining at the Atlanta Olympics, followed by BMX in 2008. The exciting part is that cycling has been a very successful Olympic sport for the UK with Team GB achieving the most gold medals in cycling after athletics. We hope this will be the case for skateboarding too.
The potential for the future of skateboarding is certainly comparable to the stellar rise BMX has seen since Olympic inclusion and we are certain skateboarding will quickly follow in BMX’s footsteps. BMX freestyle will bring a “fresh look” to the Olympic games; the addition of the BMX freestyle park to the programme completes the event’s rise from the streets to the top table of international sport and demonstrates the same rise skateboarding is expected to reach.
The stamp of approval from the Olympic Games has also lead to a more professional attitude among BMX freestyle riders and allowed it to be taken seriously as a sport, another positive effect of Olympic inclusion skateboarding could have.
Shanaze Danielle Reade is a perfect example of progression through the introduction of counter-culture sports. Reade made her Olympic debut in 2002 and progressed into freestyle BMX, winning UCI BMX World Championships three times and has since undertaken an ambassadorial role at British Cycling. “What Shanaze has accomplished over the years is really quite remarkable,” said British Cycling’s head coach Iain Dyer. “Being a world champion five times in two different cycling disciplines is no mean feat and Shanaze can leave the team with a strong sense of pride in her achievements.”
This demonstrates that the inclusion of BMX as an Olympic sport has allowed new and exciting sports to be taken seriously and encouraged diversity and success in new avenues. Since BMX’s inclusion, in 2018, over 100 BMX tracks are said to have been instated by local authorities worldwide to encourage and push the sport. In London, sixteen BMX tracks have been built with many more on the way.
Financial investments into new Olympic sports is thought to rise by up to 80% in the first year of inclusion, opening the industry, its recognition and availability even further. Statistics suggest that the value of the BMX industry doubled following its debut. Thomas Barker, the Executive Director of the International Association of Skateboard Companies stated “A lot of funding for recreation is based off the Olympics, so we’re going to see a lot more skate parks and skate facilities built worldwide”. In some ways, we are already ahead of the curve with London already having over 80 skate parks in comparison to other cities such as Paris with 20 and Berlin with only 7.
BMX and skateboarding came together officially for the first time on the Olympic stage at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Buenos Aires 2018. An impressive line-up of champions showcasing their skills and creating a demonstration about the future of these street sports included: Leticia Bufoni (BRA), professional street skateboarder and reigning world champion, Nyjah Huston (USA), professional skateboarder and overall champion at the Street League Skateboarding competition series in 2010, 2012, 2014, 2017, 2018 and 2019 and Logan Martin (AUS), BMX freestyler and 2018 X-Games winner.
Another highlight included an initiation in skateboarding with Tony Hawk, one of the most influential skateboarders of all time. Innovative and all inclusive, the concept of Urban Park will be replicated for the first time in Tokyo.
It’s not only Eduskate who are excited and backing skateboarding in the 2021 Olympics, with many widely recognised names and faces fully behind the progression. Skateboarding superstar Nyjah Huston, USA’s eight-time X Games gold medal winner stated “The word is out. Everyone is on it. Being here only makes me look forward to it (Tokyo 2021) more. I am stoked to have a chance to be at the first one”.
While bashful about her contribution to the sport, Bufoni does admit to feeling a rush when she considers how far skateboarding has come, even in the four years since she was part of its showcase at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games Sport Lab. “I am really proud. We are getting more and more support now. We are getting more and more women in the sport. It’s a great time for skateboarding and it’s going to be even better after the Olympics.”
Giving an insight into his opinions, global title winning skateboarder Chris Cole, who turned pro aged 20 in 2002 says “It is the natural progression for skateboarding and the Olympics. Neither can go back but must move forwards in a positive direction that captures more of an audience and creates a bigger fan base. Skateboarding is a part of each skater as much as their childhood memories and upbringing are”. Now 37 years old, Cole knows that some of his fellow competitors, especially the younger ones, are likely to “bring new tricks” at the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games, but emphasises that his sport will always be about more than who occupies the podium places at the end of a contest. “Creativity will remain a drive with or without competition”.
Olympic skateboarding is set to include two events: street and park, both with male and female teams. In Skateboarding, the rider is free to select which parts of the course to tackle and which tricks to perform. Following it’s exciting and creative debut skateboarding is set to attain better financial investment, more facilities, encouragement of inclusion and diversity, a new avenue for Team GB to flourish in and increased potential for young people to take part and find success.
Given the positive forecast for the future, we believe this is the best time to invest as a country into the growth of skateboarding and, with investment, we will have a better potential for winning medals along with an abundance of social and cultural benefits.
We want to pioneer skateboarding as an Olympic sport and are excited at the chance to help make this a reality for young people and see them prosper and flourish through skateboarding.