Not all skateboarders are on board with skateboarding at 2020 Olympics

Tony hawk for skateboarding in the 2020 Olympics
Tony Hawk (seen here in Barcelona) is all for skateboarding to be included in the Olympics. Photo: Quiksilver

Skateboarding has made the shortlist of sports for Olympic inclusion in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. And while skateboarding icons like Tony Hawk and Chris Cole are all for its inclusion, another faction of skaters that includes guys like Bob Burnquist want nothing to do with the Olympics.

Currently, that debate is at the center of an online petition urging the International Olympic Committee to keep its hands off skateboarding, and an international survey measuring how to properly bring it to Tokyo.

As noted by the Los Angeles Times, an online petition that started a little over a week ago currently has over 6,000 signatures of people claiming to be skateboarders urging the IOC to stay far away from skateboarding.

“With due respect for Olympic athletes, we the undersigned skateboarders and advocates strongly request that the IOC NOT RECOGNIZE SKATEBOARDING AS AN OLYMPIC SPORT, or use skateboarding to market the Olympics,” the description of the online petition reads.”Skateboarding is not a ‘sport’ and we do not want skateboarding exploited and transformed to fit into the Olympic program.”

The stance of those detractors is perhaps best summed up by a Brazilian petition signee named Rodrigo Kaveski who commented, “Skate is art, not business.”

On the other side of the argument is the IOC and the international governing bodies that control skateboarding supported by big names like Tony Hawk, who said skateboarding is “very likely” to be included in the 2020 Olympics.

They see the backlash as similar to that faced when snowboarding was chosen for inclusion. Prepared to ride out any criticism, they’ve gone so far as to solicit an international study to see what the best way to include it will be.

“Currently, we’ve had about 500 surveys completed throughout the study, and we’re hoping to hit 1,000 soon enough,” Dr. Holly Thorpe, a professor of sport and leisure at the University of Waikato, told GrindTV. The 34-year-old doctor is currently in the midst of a 9 month study commissioned by the IOC to determine attitudes among those in the action sports community about the potential inclusion of skateboarding and surfing in the 2020 Olympics.

Bob Burnquist Against 2020 Olympic skateboarding
Brazilian Bob Burnquist has called skateboarding avoiding Olympic inclusion a blessing. Photo: ESPN Images

Herself a former professional snowboarder, Thorpe sees the backlash to the IOC’s involvement as stemming from a generational gap between the older action sports participants, who grew up when the sports were still counter-cultural, and the millennial generation who grew up with guys like Shaun White and Nyjah Huston on their Wheaties boxes.

“My opinion, and what I think our study will eventually bare out, is that I think the tides are turning on the backlash against the Olympics,” said Dr. Thorpe. “I remember when skateboarding was considered for inclusion in the 2012 London Olympics a whole group of skaters rose up and essentially said [no way]. But we’ve seen skateboarding come a long way … and I think the younger generation kind of expects it.”

Ultimately, however, Thorpe thinks the biggest fight will boil down to who gets to control how skateboarding is implemented into the Olympics. Brian Blakely, the managing editor at TRANSWORLD SKATEBOARDING, echoes that sentiment.

“It's a touchy subject,” Blakely told GrindTV. “And ultimately I think the controversy is good for it. Because on one hand, you have organizations like the the Federation International de Roller Sports (FIRS), campaigning to be the ones to organize Olympic skateboarding. That’s the body that controls roller-skating, and literally any skateboarder can tell you that’s a horrible idea.

“So the backlash is necessary to ensure that eventually skateboarding is handled by skateboarders. Because at some point it will be time to face the fact that it’s happening. Then the big battle will be: who gets ownership of skateboarding? So long as it’s skateboarders, I think most of us will get behind it.”

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