Written By Chris Stylianou | South Africa
Skateboarding inclusion as a sport in the Olympic Games was always going to be a controversial topic. The reaction on the streets is that skateboarding is not a sport but rather a lifestyle, art, culture. The reality is that most sports are a lifestyle and culture. Rugby certainly cannot be considered and art form however there is no argument against it being a lifestyle and culture just look around you and you will see it falls firmly into the categories mentioned.
Let us look at the definition of Art
“the various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, literature, and dance” Then we are forced to acknowledge that skateboarding definitely falls firmly into this category with skateboarders constantly stretching and pushing the boundaries with new tricks and styles.
If you ask any skateboarder on the street, ‘Do you want to be in the Olympic Games,’ especially in this country, they would probably say no that’s because it’s the coolest, easiest thing to say and I would probably say that’s the attitude of skateboarding in general.
The reality however is that skateboarding will most likely be included in the 2020 Olympics with or without the support of skaters. What many skateboarders are not acknowledging is that the popularity of skateboarding and its rapid growth over the last few years has been the direct result of events such as X-Games and Street League. The Olympics now what a piece of that pie which translates into hard cash.
In South Africa Skateboarding has seen an unprecedented growth since the first Maloof Money Cup which is now the Kimberley Diamond Cup. The Northern Cape Government has taken the lead supported by Anglo American, Kumba and the World Skateboarding Federation and has through its Skate for Hope Tour taken skateboarding to the next level in South Africa. Even its detractors will probably agree that the growth of skateboarding in South Africa would not have reached the current levels without this annual tour and main event.
The reality is that every sport has its purists which is probably a nice way of saying conservatives and South Africa is no exception. Change scares people however it is usually those who feel threatened or who feel a loss of ownerships over something that resist the hardest. The truth about skateboarding is it is unique in that it is an activity that allows and has a place for everyone from the old school diehards to the progressives and those who want to compete.
There are plenty of successful skaters that have made their careers almost exclusively by competing and they are the ones that will rise to the occasion when offered a chance to be Olympic athletes. What is ironic is that it will probably be the naysayers whose livelihoods are based in the skateboard industry who will end up benefiting the most from the newfound global interest.
What does inclusion In the Olympics mean to Skateboarders in general?
The biggest challenge to the skateboarding community is the fact that not only do they often find themselves ostracized as the activity is not taken seriously but also that facilities are few and far between. There is no doubt that inclusion in the Olympic Games will have a hugely positive impact on skateboarding. It offers skateboarding the opportunity to be taken seriously by both their National Sporting Bodies and Local Authorities. Money will be made available for the development of skateboard parks, coaching and training facilities and schools will have to take skateboarding seriously as either an extramural sport or activity let alone consider including it in their programs.
The benefits to the existing industry will be huge with corporates more willing to fund events and provide sponsorship. Sales of skateboarding equipment and accessories will see an unprecedented rise. The reality is that skateboarding and skateboarders will be the direct beneficiaries of this. Many skateboarders moan about how they are treated and that they are not taken seriously by society and their parents. Inclusion in the Olympic Games will definitely go a long way to changing this.
For those who have no interest in being part of the changes that will come, the good news is that you have a choice. Skateboarding’s inclusion in the Olympic Games is not going to take away its creativity, culture or art. Skateboarders and skateboarding is far more than that and those who protest X-Games and Street League have been proven wrong. What has happened is that skateboarding has definitely benefited from these events which have taken it a step forward and the result has been an increase in the viability of the industry.
The Challenges Facing Skateboarding is not inclusion in the Olympic Games but rather who will represent skateboarding internationally and gain recognition by the Olympic Committee. “Currently this is the Fédération Internationale de Roller Sports (FIRS)” This should be the skateboarding communities biggest concern and not its inclusion in the Olympics.
What is FIRS?
The Federation Internationale de Patinage a Roulettes (FIPR) was formed in 1924 as an international sport organization to conduct roller hockey competitions between the few national federations which were already engaged on an informal basis in such competitions in western Europe. This fundamentally hockey oriented group was originated in Montreux, Switzerland in April of 1924 by two Swiss sportsmen, Fred Renkewitz and Otto Myer, who had close ties to the International Olympic Committee. Myer was IOC Chancellor.
This is in our opinion like having the World Scooter Federation representing and looking after the interests of skateboarding.
Currently there are number of organizations who represent skateboarding the most prominent and relevant being
- International Skateboarding Federation
- World Skateboarding Federation
- World Cup Skateboarding
The number of Federations is somewhat reminiscent of boxing and the real challenge for the Skateboarding Community is either that these organizations come together in the interests of Skateboarding or alternatively one organization is recognized as the legitimate representative
Skateboarders should however be flattered as the reason that the IOC would like to see skateboarding at the Olympics is Quote
“Our problem is that we see that young people are not that interested in the Olympics anymore,” Gerhard Heiberg, a long time IOC executive board member from Norway, told ESPN.com in December 2010. “We need to find sports attracting ages between 16 and 24. Skateboarding is of course interesting to us because you have young people operating this, but we have found that at this stage it is not well enough organized
Which every way you look at it Skateboarding is on the list and likely to be included. How you deal with it is and what you think of this is ultimately your choice. The reality though is if you don’t take advantage of these developments you may just find yourself on the fringes. It not about whether you agree or not its how much skateboarding and all participants can get out of this.
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