What do everyday skaters think about Skateboarding in the Olympics - Survey results

I'm sure you all know by now that skateboarding is part of the Olympics for the first time ever in the Tokyo 2020 summer Olympics (which is actually being held in 2021 thanks to the Covid19 pandemic.) The decision is made, what's done is done, and there's no turning back.

People have some strong opinions about this, so a lot has been said already, but I wanted to find out what regular skaters thought about Skateboarding in the Olympics, so I surveyed everyday skaters from around the world to find out*.

Who took the survey: 758 skaters from around the world

Here's what they said:

As you see most people (especially outside the US, btw) think the Olympics will be good for skateboarding. Based on the comments, it seems like their reasoning revolves around the idea that being an Olympic sport would make skateboarding seem more legit, and in turn, they/skaters may be treated with more acceptance, and hopefully get more skateparks. Of course this is a valid reason, especially for areas where the infrastructure (skateparks/skateshops) and cultural acceptance is lacking.

There are always pros and cons to everything but overall I personally tend to side with the minority and think that there are more reasons and more significant reasons to think that Olympics will not be that good for skateboarding. Wherever you stand on this, here are some issues to consider when making up your mind, in no specific order:

Skateboarding is not a global sport

There are skaters all over the world but competitive/professional skateboarding does not exist outside a handful countries to become a global/olympic sport. The US will dominate. There will be some individual competition from maybe Brasil, Japan, and a couple of European countries but there definitely won't be any competition at the team level, and most countries won't even have qualifying skaters.

The Olympics is too Nationalistic

Skaters cheer each other on and we consider skaters around the world our brothers and sisters. There are skaters whose styles or personalities I enjoy more, but that's never based on nationality. It would be  lame if the Olympics changed that.

It's just the Olympics looking out for itself

Skateboarding never asked to be included in the Olympics, it was never some goal anyone was pushing for. The Olympics decided to include skateboarding and surfing to stay more relevant by appealing to younger audiences.

"We hope with skateboarding we can have a new, young-blood in the Olympic family."
~Sabatino Aracu, FIRS President (Federation Internationale de Roller Sports) Source

The Olympics will hurt the richness and diversity in Skateboarding

You can follow skating on instagram, facebook, youtube, websites, etc... and on each platform there are different players, a wealth of content and many different approaches, brands, styles, etc. There are old school riders, penny-board riders, mountain boarders, paddle-boarders, cruisers, longboard dancers, shaped-boards, surf-skating, etc... There are bigger players, of course, but no one really dominates the culture, and each style has a growing following. 

Josh Friedburg, CEO of USA Skateboarding claims: “Skateboarding will change the Olympics, it's not the other way around” (source) That's wishful thinking imo. It's never a one-way street unfortunately, and skateboarding culture is (relatively) unknown and vulnerable. Globally-broadcast Olympic skateboarding events will dominate the culture and define and dictate what skateboarding is, what it looks like, what equipment is used, etc, to the largest group of people out there. This will only benefit a few large brands that align with that narrow representation and are big enough to operate internationally, but hurt everyone else.

Besides these reasons, competitive skateboarding is a bit silly at any level any way. It is more of an art, a personal expression. Just like surfing is not all about the pro circuit, skateboarding is so much more than the "pro" scene, or Street Leage, and X Games... Ultimately there is no score in Skateboarding.

Some people say skateboarding is too "punk rock" to be a part of the Olympics, like it's the domain of  rebels or something. I disagree and find that approach a little too tired and limiting. It's totally the opposite: skateboarding is punk-rock for sure, but it's also jazz, and classical, and country, and hiphop, and ska, and everything else in between. No gate-keeping. Skateboarding welcomes all and resists narrow definitions. That is the beauty of it.

Here's what The Gonz has to say about the Olympics:

And this came from Tony Alva, hours after I posted this article:

(Tony Alva Profile)

Tony Alva

July 25, 2021 (public)

Watching the Olympics with mixed feelings. So many people are asking us (Alva) how we feel about skateboarding in the Olympics. Tony has been interviewed quite a bit on the subject. His most cited quote is, "they need us more than we need them." Read it twice. Let it sink in. Please believe this is coming from a man that turned down an Olympic Coke commercial because he doesn't like the effect soda has on kids. Who else of his caliber would do that? I'll wait….

We love the skaters. Mimi Knoop once skated for the Alva women's team, and today she is an Olympic coach. Yeah, Mimi! Cool for sure, but that doesn't change the fact that IOC is an exploitative organization that has wreaked havoc on poor people worldwide. And now, in a less critical but still relevant manner, they will attempt to exploit the ethos of skateboarding for skate credibility, cash, and a grab at the youth market. I'm in a unique position to watch this moment with the skateboarding's spark. It's hard to imagine what it's like for Tony. He's too busy being graceful. He's given everything to skateboarding. The love of his life. Love to our friends on team US Skateboarding. ♥️🇺🇸

This is not a call to negativity but a reminder to us at Alva and hopefully skaters everywhere to value skate culture's core values of freedom of expression and independence. It’s also a reminder for us to align with organizations, corporations, and media outlets that are here for more than a money grab.

For the graphic, we collaborated with our friend and artist @edsyder in England. It is a pure expression and not for sale in any format.

Sincerely - @madamealva

*I surveyed members of 10 skateboarding groups on Facebook. Links to the surveys on FB groups: group 1, group 2, group 3, group 4, group 5, group 6, group 7, group 8, group 9, group 10


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