Next Up At The Olympics, Lifestyle Sports
Surfing, skateboarding and wall climbing, lifestyle sports with a focus on youth appeal and gender equality, will make their debut at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. For the first time in the annals of the games, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) is providing flexibility and innovation by allowing a host country to propose its own sports, while still preserving the core of the classical Olympics.
Recognizing the myriad of entertainment options available to athletes and sports fans today, the IOC decided to take a selection of their 2020 competitions to the host nation. In the case of Japan next year, young hipsters who seek out thrills on ocean surfs, urban pavements, and vertical walls will now have a chance to earn medals at the world’s greatest sporting stage.
Founded on the ideals of the ancient Greek games, the first modern Olympics took place in 1896, bringing together 14 nations and 241 athletes in 9 sports. Fast forward 120 years, the 2016 events in Rio de Janeiro featured 207 nations, 11,238 athletes and 28 different sports. No doubt, the Olympics have evolved over the generations to meet the vast changes in popular culture, globalization, and technology.
But no new sport, or any one of its categories, will be assured a permanent spot at the prestigious athletic extravaganza. Plenty of competitions have appeared, disappeared and reappeared since Pierre de Coubertin launched the games in Athens, Greece. Tug-of-war, underwater swimming, standing high-jump and dueling pistol shooting are just a few events that were held at one point and then canceled. The shooting competition in 1900 even featured live pigeons that were killed in the air as part of the event. To the abhorrence of spectators and animal rights activists, the use of live pigeons would be discontinued in future games.
Even non-athletic competitions were showcased during certain periods and then terminated. Between 1912 and 1948, seven Olympiads incorporated art into their programs. Five major categories were selected for medal contention: architecture, painting, sculpture, literature and music. American Walter Winans became a dual medalist in 1912 when he won silver in marksmanship and gold in sculpture.
Art in the Olympics was eventually scrapped since artists were deemed professionals and not amateurs like their counterparts on the field and in the swimming pool. Some of their works even sold while on display at the games. Eventually, the medals awarded for art were also stripped from the official records of the IOC.
After several failed attempts over the years, the International Surfing Association (ISA) finally succeeded in breaking into the Olympics. Twenty men and twenty women will ride shortboards on waves at Shidashita Beach, some 40 miles outside Tokyo. Even Kelly Slater, the 48-year old all-time surfing champion, expressed an interest in competing at the momentous event.
With roots in the South Pacific, surfing was promoted internationally by Hawaii’s Duke Kahanamoku, a three-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming (1912, 1920). Born in 1890 when the island was still a kingdom, Duke was the leading surfer of his day and the sport’s first ambassador who pushed for its inclusion in the Olympics. A century later, his dream is finally being realized.
By the 1950’s, the water-borne sport gave birth to “sidewalk surfing”, or skateboarding as it later became known. A recreational street fad practiced by surfers in Southern California when they weren’t out on the water, the land-based flat board turned into a lifestyle sport with the advent of the kicktail and urethane wheels.
By the end of the 1970’s, a new generation of surfers-turned-skateboarders started talking about transforming their passion to an Olympic competition. That vision will now take place as eighty men and women will compete in four different skateboarding events at the Aomi Urban Venue in Tokyo.
Joining surfing and skateboarding, sport climbing will witness forty male and female athletes participating in a triple test of speed climbing, lead climbing and bouldering on artificial walls. Emphasizing strength, endurance and technique, worldwide competitions in this discipline got going in the 1990’s and the sport today boasts 35 million climbers who scale walls in over 140 countries.
Balancing old and new, classical and emerging, the Olympics continue to excite us every four years with all forms of athletics and gamesmanships.
HORSE RACING June 5, 2010 Drosselmeyer wins the 142nd Belmont Stakes with jockey Mike Smith aboard. Named after a character from ‘The Nutcracker’ ballet, the chestnut-colored colt cleared the finish line in 2:31:57, ahead of second place Fly Down ridden by John Velazquez. Drosselmeyer would go on to claim the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic with Smith on the saddle once again. A 15-1 longshot, he nevertheless won the race with a margin of 1½ lengths, or in 2:04:27.
HOCKEY June 10, 2000 The New Jersey Devils defeat the Dallas Stars 2-1 to win the Stanley Cup series 4-2. The match was won in double overtime after Jason Arnott netted the final deciding goal. It was the Devils’ second Stanley Cup in franchise history after winning the first one five years earlier. New Jersey’s captain, Scott Stevens, took home the MVP award. The team would go on to wear the crown again in 2003, taking out the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim 4-3.
BASEBALL June 12, 1990 Ricky Henderson becomes the second player to steal 900 bases in modern baseball after Lou Brock. The 10x All-Star who won 2 World Series with the Oakland Athletics (1989) and Toronto Blue Jays (1993) was widely regarded as baseball’s greatest leadoff hitter and baserunner. At the time of his retirement, the “Man of Steal” posted 1,406 stolen bases, of which 130 were in a single season; both achievements still stand today as MLB records.
TENNIS June 7, 1980 Chris Evert defends her title at the French Open, defeating Romania’s Virginia Ruzici 6-0, 6-3. It was the 10th singles victory for the Florida native who turned pro in 1972. She reached the No. 1 world ranking in 1975 and won 18 Grand Slam singles at the end of her illustrious career: French Open (7), U.S. Open (6), Wimbledon (3), and the Australian Open (2). One of the greatest in the game, Evert was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1995.