Whilst skateboarding’s debut at this year’s Olympics was primarily met with mixed emotions, like it or not, it happened. And the initial reaction is all but negative – tabloids all instantly jumped on the skateboarding bandwagon with front page features after Sky Brown won Britain’s first skateboarding medal. Some may disagree with skateboarding being in the Olympics, however times they are a ‘changing and it’s going to be interesting to see how it shapes skateboarding for the future. Insight from SOURCE Skateboarding Editor, Dave Morgan.
The initial photo/ video coverage of the event was rather questionable, with Olympics ‘sport’ media capturing ‘action shots’ instead of professional skate photographers, but this was quickly changed with guys such as Atiba Jefferson on hand. With this being skateboarding’s debut on such a platform, there was bound to be some questionable interpretation, however the majority of the commentary was applauded for explaining things in layman’s terms, as most countries used professional skateboarders to commentate.
A common conversation in regards to skateboarding’s Olympic debut and competitive skateboarding in general is of course, the scoring of something which is considered an art form and a lifestyle, as oppose to a sport. Obviously a more structured competition format than your local skatepark jam, but how does this effect the actual skateboarding taking place? The judging format pioneered by Street League (and Park Series) that the Olympics adopted for its debut has definitely helped make things a bit more tangible for those who didn’t understand skateboarding before.
It’s been noted how amazing it was to see skateboarders compete in the Olympics in sharp contrast to other Olympic sports, as a true sense of camaraderie and support for fellow skaters was so strong. High fives, hugs and smiles all round were seen between the various teams and countries. An activity that breaks down the usual sporting boundaries and unites all on a level mind-set is greatly refreshing.
Hopefully the worldwide exposure brought on by the Olympics will change the opinion of the general public towards skateboarding, with more councils willing to see the positive sides of such an activity, and more funding being put into skatepark development and educational projects. It’s interesting to see what will happen in the future regarding funding for skateboarding, as in the UK for example, skateboarding received the least amount of funding out of any sport, and still managed to win a medal. Looking at the UK for examples, Skateboard GB received just £197,725 from UK Sport but Sky Brown’s bronze medal at the age of 13 means more Olympic success could be on the agenda at future Games.
From a business point of view, it seems mostly positive – more exposure means more participation, more participation – better business for the industry. Sarkis Miló Hernández from Centrano noted: “Sadly, sales have not been what we expected during July and August. On the other hand, we do not think the flat sales line is a result of a potential negative effect on the Olympic games, but the results of more flexible Covid-19 regulations in many countries.”
Whilst it’s too soon to call if the Olympics gave the industry a boost, the build-up to the Olympics in 2019 (pre-pandemic) was huge. 24/7’s General Manager, Nils Gebbers spoke specifically of the Benelux union seeing a decent impact in sales due to the high number of qualified riders, especially their female riders.
Steve Douglas of Dwindle explained: “As everyone overbought during the first year of the pandemic when supply was non-existent, we now have a global inventory issue.” The effects of the pandemic on material costs and supply chain issues are still very prominent, and the knock-on effect is something the industry is going to deal with for some time.
My hope is that city councils will realise that a wooden miniramp rotting in a soggy field is just not good enough, and finally start to invest more in public skateparks for development of the activity. With better facilities, greater participation is of course expected. Seeing skateboarding on the television at the Olympics no less, will inspire kids to take it up. Speaking with premium British facility, Graystone Action Sports, Co-Founder Kevin Gray says “we’ve seen a huge uptick in beginner skateboard sessions, +140% year on year for August 2021. Skating’s been booming due to lockdowns, but the Olympics has really sent total newbie participation through the roof.”
As previously said, this was skateboarding’s debut in the Olympics, so of course there are still some technical things to be ironed out, but the overall view is that it has done good for giving skateboarding exposure and giving those who didn’t understand it a better grasp of what we do.
Jörg Ludewig of Urban Supplies said: “We expect the Olympics to not cause another craze, but at least to support the current performance of the market. As far as we are concerned, the Olympics for sure did not hurt.”