Road to Tokyo: Skateboarding is coming to the Olympics in 2020

When you picture a skateboarder, you probably imagine a kid wearing a backward hat and a grungy tee, sporting that o-so-relevant rebellious attitude. You probably don’t imagine that person on top of an Olympics podium. Well, that’s about to change.

Skateboarding, along with five other sports, will be newly integrated into the summer Olympics in Tokyo 2020. Joining skateboarding is baseball/softball, karate, sport climbing and surfing.

Stu Graham, pro skateboarder and 1996 Scottish Championship winner, has been chosen to represent Team Great Britain. For Graham, this opportunity is a dream come true. His passion in life is skating and to represent his country in the Olympics is something he’s been wishing for since he was a kid. He is ‘over the moon’ about the games, but the same can’t be said for everyone.

Interestingly, the skateboarders themselves don’t seem as excited as one of their newly appointed coaches.

The opinions seem to split right down the middle. Of course, there is that pride that comes with representing your country while doing the thing you love the most. On the other hand, many of the athletes feel as if the sport doesn’t need this type of platform to be legitimized.

The Olympics raises the bar for many sports because it gives them a place to show people who wouldn’t otherwise watch it, a place to appreciate their craft. They’re the best of the best in the world and the patriotism and pride that comes along with it are unmatchable. Gymnastics, swimming, track, all competitive sports in their own right but most of the time these are ONLY watched by general audiences during the games.

Skateboarding, on the other hand, is based more on its cultural aspect than its competitiveness. It’s an escape in a different way because of its reputation as a rebellious past time rather than a sport. There is less of that need to be better than the skateboarder next to you and more of the need to be better yourself.

Thrasher magazine interviewed multiple skaters on the newly appointed Olympic stage their boards might be lucky enough to grace, and the reactions were strong.

Professional skateboarder Corey Duffel gave this wonderfully sarcastic answer:

“Who doesn’t want skateboarding safe, with lots of rules and to be judged? Who cares about style, individuality, creativity and having fun when there are uniforms to be worn and we can call it a household sport that has no grit or rawness left on the court. Sounds like we can all dream of being called athletes now.

I’ve always wanted to fit in and abide by rules and be graded on art. The general public also might finally realize how amazing our underground community is and might even make some money off it. Competing against other countries and battling your friends for the gold is brilliant.”

And there you have it, folks. This is the reason in a nutshell. Most of the Thrasher interviews went in this direction, saying that the only reason it’s in the Olympics is to capitalize on the sport, as is the way of the world right now. It’s turned into more about money than anything else these days.

The dissenting opinion, for the most part, was that anything to grow the game is good, which sounds like another sport that was recently reacquainted with the Olympic games, golf. These two individual sports are similar for that fact alone, they are individual, and not much more. Their audiences are small, and what better way to grow that audience by joining the best athletes in the world on the biggest athletic stage.

Plus, it was bound to happen at some point. The sport is growing as more and more kids pick up a board, and not for all the wrong reasons.

Skater Arto Saari had an interesting take:

“I am totally down for the Olympics but you can never box up the radicalness of skateboarding and sell it to the masses. There is so much more to it than what you’ll ever see on TV. But it will be fun to see the high performance side of skateboarding and hear about the parties in the Olympic village.”

That’s what has most of these professionals knickers in a bunch. They don’t want the creativity and individual style to get lost on this huge stage. But competitions like Street League and the X-Games have already created competitions that the Olympics can mimic, so it doesn’t seem too far fetched to think the judging will be fair.

It will be interesting, to say the least, to see how they format and judge this new addition. Whether the pros are happy about it or not, skateboarding is coming to the Olympics and we know one thing is for sure, Team GB is in good hands.