Olympics: Skateboarding to debut at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games

By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw

Street culture comes to the Summer Olympic Games, to be held in Tokyo next year from 24 July to 9 August, when skateboarding features for the first time as part of the Programme.

This is a far cry from the traditional Olympic sports, but, perhaps, is a reflection of the modern times in which we live and has been introduced by the International Olympic Committee to make the Games more appealing to young people.

It is generally considered that skateboarding began in the 1940s on the west coast of United States of America. In the 1950s, the so-called ‘roller surfboard’ became commercially available and developed into the skateboard which we know today.

Skateboarding was and still is a great hit with the younger generation and grew in popularity as a sport in the 1980s and 1990s.

In Tokyo, two disciplines of the sport will feature in the Games: Street and Park and both of which will be open to men and women competitors.

In the former, the competition takes place on a straight ‘street-like’ course, which features stairs, handrails, curbs, benches, walls and slopes. Each competitor takes part individually and uses each section to show off a range of skills, known, in the jargon, as ‘tricks’. Marks are awarded for such things as the degree of difficulty and originality of the tricks performed.

Park competitions, however, take place on a hollowed-out course, which features a series of complicated curves, some resembling large dishes and dome-shaped bowls. Great heights are achieved by the competitors, who, again, compete individually, by climbing the curves at speed and performing mid-air tricks. The variety of the tricks increases when the kicker ramp is used to gain height.

Music is an important accompaniment to skateboarding and adds to the overall effect of the skateboarders’ performances!

It will be interesting to see how popular skateboarding turns out to be at the 2020 Tokyo Games and whether it becomes a permanent fixture of the Olympic Programme!

Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw may be contacted by e-mail at ‘ian.blackshaw@orange.fr’