Why the Olympics is Good for Skateboarding
The Olympics won’t ruin skateboarding. It will legitimize and empower it.
Skateboarding’s inclusion into the 2020 Olympic Games has been one of the most divisive issues to surface in the recent history of the ‘sport’. Many prominent figures in the industry argue that the implicitly anti-capitalist, subcultural or “alternative” nature of skateboarding simply conflicts with the Olympic charade. Others point to the impossibility of ‘accurate’ judging given the artistic, non-competitive character of the sport. Or express concerns regarding corporate co-option of the event.
While these concerns are genuine, a closer look casts doubt on the doomsday sayers. The fact is that competitions have been a part of skateboarding culture for over half a century. And there is little indication that the Olympic Games will be much more than just the newest and shiniest contest added to the fold.
Sure, ‘objective’ judging of a run or trick is per definition not possible. How does one judge art? Still, we’ve come to accept (and even cherish) events such as Tampa Pro and Street League Skateboarding (SLS). So why hate on the Olympics, which will employ the same formula? Competition skaters will be hyped, while those more interested in street skateboarding will keep out of the whole ordeal. Just like the case is now with the SLS.
What about the corporations though? Well, it’s worth noting that big sports companies have already firmly established themselves in the industry. Without the Olympics. Nike SB, for example, sponsors innumerable events these days. Granted, this is far from ideal. But to think that the 2020 Games will have much effect on this seems illogical. And while it is worrying that the International Roller Skating Federation oversaw the initial bid to get skateboarding included in the Olympics, responsibility for the planning and implementation has since been handed to the Tokyo 2020 Skateboarding Commission. And initial reports look promising.
Taking a look at the flip side
The clamour thus seems to be over-exaggerated. So what about benefits? What, if any, positive changes will come out of skateboarding’s Olympic debut?
First off, the 2020 Games in Japan will legitimize the recreational activity in the eyes of governments and the general public, on a global, unprecedented scale. Sure, such a thought might make an average skater shudder with distaste. Nonetheless, this will undoubtedly lead to a previously unseen degree of support for skateboarding amongst the public and officials. It will consolidate the image of skateboarding as something good, healthy and worth promoting. It will bolster the emerging trend whereby skateboarding is accepted and even celebrated as a part of a modern city’s urban image. Perhaps most importantly, the Olympic tag will likely lead to a far greater amount of public funds being allocated to skateboarding than ever before.
Skateboarding’s Olympic debut will also attract more people all over the world to step on the board. Including women and disadvantaged youth. Many ‘core’ skaters pride themselves on the fringe culture aspect of skateboarding. But there’s little reason not to be happy about more people picking up one of the greatest hobbies in the world. And perhaps even more importantly, more skateboarders will mean a greater demand for related enterprises. More people will be looking for skateshops, boards, shoes, brand gear, and of course skateparks as well. Sure, big companies will make a killing. But there is no reason to think that local grassroots ventures won’t benefit from a bigger industry as well. And with 3.5 billion people tuning in, the potential gains are considerable.
Skateboarding is fun, accessible, unique and widely beneficial to both individuals and communities. And the Olympic Games won’t (and can’t) change that. On the contrary, the impact we can expect from Tokyo 2020 is rather the opposite. A more positive understanding of an often-demonized sport. An increased number of skateboarders around the globe. And greater support from public officials.
So what’s not to like?
- Troy Björkman
- November 13, 2017
- 1,270 Comment