On an inauspicious Thursday in August 2016, after decades of debate, skateboarding was finally accepted as an Olympic sport. While purists are quick to label this mainstream acceptance as the death of skateboarding’s outlaw spirit, New Zealand chooses to embrace the fledgling sport with a national fervour not seen since the days of Peter Snell.
The following is a highly fictitious account of the events that will take place in the turbulent years leading up to the New Zealand Olympic skateboarding campaign for Tokyo 2020.
Skate parks are immediately rebranded as training facilities and millions of public dollars are spent on upgrades and lighting so prospective Olympians can train 24/7. The desperate shouts of skate dads echo into the evening as they push their offspring to get their ollie count up to the Olympic standard of ‘14 stairs at 14 years’. Pub conversations around the nation change from how bad the ref was at their kids’ morning rugby to debating the correct hardflip technique for eight-year-olds.
The ultimate security guard kick-out response changes from “just one more try” to “we’re athletes in training for Tokyo 2020, do you hate your country?” Canny skaters create their own New Zealand Olympic official tees to confuse authorities and off-limit street spots become fair game. One crew even passes around a fake Olympic torch to get in a two-hour session at a prime double set. Some councils actively encourage ledge and wall scuffs on public property as evidence of local participation in the national interests, and a North Island town rebrands itself as Skatopia despite their only skate spots being a bowl built in 1982 and a handrail the Vans team checked out once.
In the interests of diversity and acceptance, the sport is expanded to include mongo foot pushers as a separate division. Logo placement becomes a vital concern for top Olympians and stylists emerge to guide athletes on the correct aesthetics for premium brand visibility. Official spokespeople for the sport are also rife, reaching bizarre heights with the inclusion of ex-Block and Bachelor contestants on a panel discussion on skateboarding where they talk knowledgably about Bart Simpson and “flip kicks”.
Multi-sport legend Sonny Bill Williams takes up skating and under the guidance of coaches Rodney Mullen and Steve Hansen tries out for the New Zealand skate team. Describing the process of learning switch back tails as “tougher than the World Cup campaign”, he chokes in the Olympic qualifiers but still manages to give credit to the team in his final interview. Reports of late night SBW sightings in the streets become notorious and his frontside five-0s are described as aggressive yet precise.
Due to the popularity of their Instagram videos, the Skuxxx Po$$e—a crew of young skaters from Opotiki—are scouted by the Russian department of National Sporting Pride to train their skate team for Tokyo. While the Kiwi influence on the Russian athletes is certainly felt, the drug test scandals that follow sour their reputation slightly. However this is seen as the historic moment where the Eastern European nations are formerly introduced to the concept of Skux Life, a defining point in their cultural development.
Veteran broadcaster John Campbell makes a triumphant return to TV with his heartfelt and inspiring coverage of the New Zealand Skate Nationals (now rebranded as the Kellogg’s Weet-Bix Olympic Entry Portal.) In what is regarded as his finest hour, Campbell describes the event as “simply marvelous” and wipes away visible tears as helmeted youngsters bail kickflips in the background.
Skating in activewear becomes acceptable and skate shops clear out low demand items like tight jeans, boards under 8 inches and independent footwear brands to make way for racks of Lycra, padded shorts and jockstraps.
The new public acceptance of skateboarding confuses and confounds the older generation of skaters who are driven to take up “core” sports like cricket and netball, which have been shunned by the Olympic committee, presumably due to their subversive and antisocial nature.
Following a surprise win in the Bangladesh qualifiers, the New Zealand mongo-foot mixed-gender skate relay team becomes the nation’s biggest medal hope after rowing and yachting. However, Australian sports commentators still taunt us mercilessly for only winning medals in sports that require props.
Obviously none of these scenarios have happened yet but the reality could be even more bizarre than what I can dream up. We can only hope skateboarding’s ultimate acceptance into sport’s mainstream has no effect on the simple freedom of going skating, which is all most of us care about anyway. Generally whatever doesn’t kill skateboarding makes it stronger, and even if corporate interests capitalise on the Olympic inclusion, they’re well entrenched in skating already. Whether you love or loathe the decision, being included in sport’s elite does mean something, as long as skateboarders get to control the process on terms that reflect the true nature of the sport. Because, whether we like it or not, it seems we’re now officially a sport. See you at the training facility.