IOC weighing skateboarding, BMX for Tokyo Summer program

Skateboarding could be added for the 2020 Tokyo Games at the earliest.
Energized by the additions of slopestyle and freeskiing to the Winter Games program, the IOC is weighing the addition of skateboarding and BMX halfpipe and park to the Summer Olympic program for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

IOC Sports Director Christophe Dubi said he expects the IOC to recognize the International Skateboarding Federation by the end of the year.

“That is probably the next boost to the sport,” he said. “Major events, exposure to the global stage is what will help the sport continue to grow.”

The IOC is in the middle of overhauling the way it determines what sports are part of the Olympics. Jacques Rogge, the former IOC president, capped the number of summer sports at 28 and number of athletes at 10,500. His successor, Thomas Bach, is in favor of loosening those rules and making it easier to add new sports.

BMX racing has been part of the Olympic program since 2008, but not the halfpipe or park disciplines of the sport. Dubi said that the program for Rio 2016 is set, but the IOC will look at new sports for Tokyo 2020. In addition to skateboarding and BMX halfpipe and park, the IOC also is eyeing sport climbing, another lifestyle sport.

“We should not move away from those sports that appear to be more traditional,” he said. “You need probably a blend of urban-extreme sport and at the same time making sure that we have the ground covered with all the (traditional) others.”

Dubi said adding slopestyle and freeskiing had been a huge benefit to the program in Sochi. The average age of Olympics viewers has been rising during the past decade, and the IOC has looked to attract younger viewers by adding new sports that appeal to them. The discipline of slopestyle and the sport of freeskiing, which have been part of the X Games for more than a decade, are an example of that.

Dubi said internet consumption globally was up 300 percent for the Sochi Games and viewership for slopestyle had been “tremendous.”

“What I find interesting is it’s strong on TV, which is a good thing because it’s (where) our traditional viewers (are), but it’s also good on the internet, which is the younger generation, and these age groups have a big pickup,” Dubi said.

Dubi said the IOC feels like the Summer Games’ program is in good shape. For the first time in years, the IOC saw an uptick in younger viewers for the London Olympics, and he believes that the IOC can continue to make traditional sports relevant by making interesting venues, playing relevant music and creating colorful backdrops.

But, he added that including “so-called extreme sports” to the program is something that could help, and the IOC will spend the rest of the year evaluating skateboarding, BMX, sport climbing and other sports.

“By the end of 2014, we will know exactly what we will do,” Dubi said.

The IOC has flirted with the idea of adding skateboarding since 2006. It first met with Camp Woodward President Gary Ream at the Torino Games to discuss the sport.

Ream and BMX legend Mat Hoffman have had ongoing discussions with the IOC about skateboarding and BMX since then. They created the International Skateboarding Federation for both sports and began holding world championships in 2010. But the organization has never been recognized as an official federation by the IOC.

In a statement to SportsBusiness Journal, Ream said: “We, the ISF, continue to have meaningful dialogue with the IOC leadership and we will follow their guidance so the skateboarding community can present skateboarding to the world properly. If skateboarding were to be added to the Olympic Games properly, it would be a great benefit to both the Games and skateboarding.

“Skateboarding adds a youth lifestyle sport enjoyed by millions of kids worldwide. It also brings a youth culture and appeal that has a strong industry, iconic and well-known athletes, and a sport that will attract and engage a younger audience. We have seen the benefits from snowboarding and freeskiing being in the Olympic Games and we have also learned a lot from the process that led to their inclusion. The Games will help skateboarding continue to grow globally and help validate the sport to parents and an adult population. I am sure that newly elected IOC President Thomas Bach understands this and values this change as something that would be very important to the Olympic movement.”

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IOC, Skateboarding, Olympics

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