The relationship had upset. From skateboarding to the Olympics. A heresy for skating culture, a dropout from bitumen for those who want to participate. Mixing the underground and libertarian culture with skateboarding with the classicism and austerity of the Olympics, marriage was not easy. When in 2016, skateboarding was announced among the new Olympic disciplines from Tokyo 2020 (along with surfing, rock climbing, karate and baseball / softball), the sail was raised in meeting the IOC’s desire to dust off the Olympic rings.
Four years later, anger is still alive and the rift is deep. Six months before the Games share the presence of skateboarding – which will be distributed between the Street events and the park where 40 men and 40 women will challenge each other – still a community that has its own codes and has always wanted to break free from the community jackets since 1970 -the number.
“There are those who play the game Olympism and prepare for it. And on the other hand, there are those who refuse directly and say that the games need skateboarding, but skateboarding does not need the games”, begins Greg Poissonnier, communications manager at the National Skateboard Commission, and skateboarder since 1987.
Freedom in danger
Among the most reluctant with the arrival of skateboarding to the Olympic Games, Samuel Partaix, professional skateboarder, so where a decay of the skating culture, absorbed by liner JO. “I do not see that kind of skateboard! I do not want to put myself in a federal form with training plans, performances and goals to achieve“, he explained shortly after the announcement of the IOC in 2016 in The team.
“When they were born, the Olympics carried great values, symbols of openness. Today, it is a gigantic business that seeks to innovate by attracting new disciplines such as BMX, breakdance or skateboarding, with an audience younger to meet the demands of advertisers. “, he complained a few years later in The cross in May 2019.
In the microcosm of skateboarding, where the screaming of rolls, the fluttering of loose T-shirts have been intertwined for over 40 years, the news continues to make people crawl. And the angry subject is often put under the rug between followers. “It’s a very sensitive subject in the skateboarding world. I did not start skateboarding for competition. I do not skate to win, but to feel free. It is my art, my escape. It is a way to feel free.”, confirmed to Sports reporter in January 2020 Manny Santiago, double winner of Street League Skateboarding (SLS).
SLS, the most important international competition, is now the mandatory qualifying point for the games. The question of scoring is still a real outlet in competitions and even more so in the Olympics: how to judge what art is most?
Among the biggest names in ramps that have indicated dissatisfaction is the legend Tony hawk : “What worries me is that young people are starting to skate for crazy reasons, such as the pursuit of fame or fortune. For me, our sport has so much more to offer, especially to young people. I think especially of myself – confidence , the search for your own identity, or even the opportunity to push the boundaries. But for that, no reason to enter the competition “, had released the 50-year-old skateboard during a visit to Chelles (Seine-et-Marne) in the summer of 2019.
A find officially shared by 7553 people on a petition, and undoubtedly much more in the world. “Skateboarding should not be included in the Olympics because skateboarders’ brands are associated with drugs and alcohol, not to mention obscenity or infidelity, which does not match the games. But guess what: that’s how we love skateboarding! The IOC exploits our enormous culture. It makes me sad to see what skateboarding will be “, was taken away by David, one of the signatories of this cry of the collective heart.
Style before metal
If this participation still divides so much, it is because many athletes do not see the contribution of the Olympic Games in the development of their passion. For them, the skating culture exists above all through magazines, videos on social networks, the style of every skateboarder and fame in this world that is difficult to penetrate for laymen. And recognition from their peers is at least worth an Olympic charm.
Whether he prefers an Olympic medal or is on the front of TransWorld, one of the most famous skate magazines, the French issue 2 Vincent Milou do not hesitate long: “It’s hot … I think it’s a cover of TransWorld.” A sign that the value of a medal for a skateboarder is very far from the value of many Olympic disciplines.
However, the movement is underway, and time continues to bring skateboarding closer to the Olympics. So some choose to dismiss their anger and embrace this choice to better protect the skate. “It’s better that there are skaters who take care of it and do not deny everything because it comes from outside. You have to stop it! When you are systematically rejected in the street, my approach is to try to make people understand what we do “, continues Greg Poissonnier.
The ghost of snowboarding mistakes
The IOC, aware of the growing distrust of this election, has added water to the wine. No forced or hasty adaptation to the Olympic form, it is up to the Olympics to embrace the skating culture while encouraging it to fit into certain boxes. “They knew the reluctance of the skating world. So in order for it to be accepted, they decided to form a commission of respected and respectable skateboarders,” explains Greg Poissonnier. Present in Rio de Janeiro in 2019 for an SLS competition, Vincent Milou, nodded: “It’s weird this story about wearing a France team uniform, I never thought so. But they do it well, it’s discreet. They’re not trying to change what we do or who we are.”
The example of snowboarding, which arrived at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano (Japan), has cooled the sliders. “The level of snowboarding in Nagano was certainly not representative of the level of freestyle snowboarding”, remembers Greg Poissonnier. To avoid this pitfall, the IOC is trying to attract the best skaters in the world, while snowboarding now hangs by freestyle.
“It collapsed, no one does it anymore, it’s a disaster! I do not think that skateboarding will go through the same path as snowboarding. People will discover skateboarding thanks to the Olympics and perhaps approach it as a classic discipline. Others can embrace skating culture after to have discovered it in the Olympics “, Greg Poissonnier ambitions.
Coexistence or irreparable rupture?
Can the Olympics suck the deviant and disobedient soul of skateboarding? To Tony Alva, skating pioneer and first world champion, the skating culture is too solid and historic to be captured in such an event. “I do not think the Olympics have the power to harm us. The only negative point will be the commercial side“, he told The team in 2019.
An observation shared by Greg Poissonnier, who sees it as an opportunity to show the world what skateboarding has to offer to dust off the Olympic Games that are seeking to renew themselves. “It’s a kick in the ass. There are a lot of sports that just live off the Olympic ambition and that feel like we’re at the crossroads of something. These are sports that will disappear because they only live for the Games, they have no sponsors.”, he observes.
However, he tries to be positive, and already sees beneficial effects that may increase further near Paris 2024. “It’s progress, recognition. The impact of Olympism is on the equipment and the number of training courses to become a skating instructor. With the Olympic support, we consider skateboarding a serious thing, so skateboarders continue to do exactly the same thing! is a whole perception that has changed: Suddenly the doors are open because skateboarding is Olympic. “