SBD/Issue 220/Events & Attractions

Some X Games Participants Question The Direction Of Event

For some athletes, the X Games "have gone to excess," and BMX dirt jumper Taj Mihelich, a past X Games medalist, "refused to participate," according to Erin Chain of the DETROIT FREE PRESS. Mihelich said, "[ESPN] controls the contest so much. There's certain things you have to do that they're trying to make almost compulsory. Like back flips and really big tricks. That stuff's great, but that's not everything there is to riding." Chain writes while the X Games "have spawned a new generation of action-sports enthusiasts, they have alienated some of the very athletes" X Games creator and ESPN VP/Programming Ron Semiao "purports to support." But Semiao and ESPN Manager of Communications Josh Krulewitz "insist that the games are focused on the athletes." Krulewitz said, "At the end of the day, it's about the athletes." (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 8/16). In Philadelphia, Karen Heller writes while the X Games "may feature the skinny outlaws of sport," it is "run like one big division of Disney." ESPN has 1,000 people in Philadelphia for the Games. Organizers "are handing out 17,000 credentials this week, including those to 350 athletes, 1,000 members of the media, and 2,500 volunteers." Meanwhile, in an effort to reach viewers ages 8-17, ESPN2 this fall "is launching blocks of school-oriented programming, beginning in the morning-sort of Captain Kangaroo meets motocross" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 8/16). Also in Philadelphia, Akweli Parker writes ESPN "has stamped its red, black and white logo on the event and its venues around the city." In the effort to bring the X Games to the area, Philadelphia-based Comcast Corp. "offered to throw in airtime for X Games commercials and to create programs on its local CN8 channel to hype the games to its 1.5 million cable subscribers in the region." Comcast "also offered creature comforts that had not been available at previous" X Games. X Games GM Chris Stiepock: "There's an element that would say (X Games athletes) are selling out. The only way these sports are going to grow is through exposure." Parker notes the city is offering ESPN up to $1M a year in services such as police and sanitation for two years, while PA "is chipping in" up to $600,000 a year (PHILA. INQUIRER, 8/16).

RADICAL COMMERCIAL, DUDE: During last night's episode of ESPN2's "EXPN 2Day," the show featured the extreme sports stars of ESPN's ad campaign for the "X Games," which takes place around a convenience store. The actor playing the police officer said, "I'm going to kick ass and take names." BMX rider Dave Mirra: "It's been pretty fun. It's a long day. ... We had to leave the hotel at 11:30 (am) and been out here all day. It's almost 9:00 (pm) now. It'll be a good commercial, though. It's fun. We've been playing around, having a lot of fun all day." ESPN2's Rick Thorne: "To me, that commercial looked like a lot of fun, you know what I mean. Just hanging out, kicking it with your friends and that's what these sports are all about" (ESPN2, 8/15).

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