Words by Sam Haddad | Illustration by Ross Holden
At the Olympics in Rio this August, the IOC will decide whether to introduce skateboarding, along with surfing, climbing, baseball/softball and karate, to the 2020 Games in Tokyo. It would be a big call for skateboarding and many skaters are pretty miffed about the decision, speaking out online about “compromising the integrity of an art form”, making video rants and starting petitions against its inclusion.
Will Harmon, the editor of Free Skateboard Magazine, tells me: “There is a slight worry that skateboarding’s Olympic inclusion will steal a bit of soul from the skateboarding world.”
To dig a little deeper into the issue I interview Iain Borden, a Professor of Architecture and Urban Culture at University College London and the author of the seminal 2001 book Skateboarding, Space and the City. He’s currently nursing a skate-induced broken wrist. I ask how he feels about the prospect of skateboarding being in the Olympics?
He says: “In many ways I feel ambivalent about it. I know if I watched it I’d get bored within five to ten minutes as I do with any competitive skateboarding, especially the more spectacular contests, such as the X Games, or Street League. I find them entirely inauthentic and I don’t care who wins. People I know get excited about the Vans Pool Party and stay up all night to watch it live, as it’s an amazing curated event. Maybe it’s a generational thing with older skaters where you care more about its authenticity rather than who wins.”