Skateboarding and the Olympics, a relationship in the making

Performing tricks in the heart of Paris at the historic Place de la Concorde is what many skateboarders dream of. Unfortunately, at the end of July and beginning of August 2024, during the Olympic Games, only a few will benefit from this. This sport appeared in the program of the most prestigious competitions only in 2021 in Tokyo. But the practice does not yet enjoy the Olympic image.

The skatepark was the first facility to be brought to life in the colors of “Terre de Jeux 2024”, a Paris-based label linking the territories to the event. The inauguration with great fanfare in Pontoise in mid-May took place in the presence of Tony Estanguet, president of the Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games, Frederic Sanor, director general of the National Sports Agency, and Stephanie von Euve, mayor of the city.

Thanks in part to Tony Estangue, skateboarding will be back in the capital in 2024. Together with the Organizing Committee of the Games, the former Seist had the right to life and death over the Olympic future of the discipline and decided to keep it as an additional sport. “It rejuvenates the offer”, He says. This desire to bring something new is also evident in the choice of surfing, breakdancing and rock climbing.

Pontoise skatepark in label colors

“I almost want to try my hand at skateboarding”laughs the three-time Olympic champion in Pontoise, minutes before he finally gets on the board. “Needless to say, he has every reason”comments Juan Renoux, Ile-de-France cup champion.

The discipline seems attractive to young people. The children of the Jean-Moulin school, smiling on their lips, would not say otherwise after an early morning initiation. “It was good, but it was hard”exhales Selena, a CE1 student who wants to come back. Skateboarding and Olympism are connected in the eyes of these young people who have the chance to touch the precious Olympic gold medal brought by Tony Estanguet from London on this day.

Jean-Moulin students admire Tony Estanguet's Olympic gold medal.  (MAEL RUSSEAU/FRANCEINFO: SPORT)

However, the association between a board with four wheels and five rings is not spontaneous for most. The marriage between underground practice with its codes and the universalism of the Games was not even obvious at first glance to followers. The fear of standardization and the gradual disappearance of the “skate culture” worried practitioners. “Before becoming a sport, it is an art, an expression”explains Eduard Damestu, 2019 World Ecology Champion.

In the mid-2010s, a petition was even filed to prevent this sport from being present at the Olympics. “We believe that commitment to the Olympic Games will forever change the face of skateboarding, its uniqueness and freedom.”it is written in this text signed by just over 7,500 people.

However, Tokyo’s experience seems to have reassured some skeptics. “We understand that the Olympic Games have not distorted skateboarding and that it has gone through a huge promote growth economic”, says Eduard Damestu. Matthias Tomer, vice-president of the Ligue Île-de-France, who is present in Japan as an assistant coach, confirms: “There is a big increase in the number of licensees.”

Juan Renux tries his hand at Pontoise Skatepark, now in label colors

In addition to numbers, this sport, in conditions of complete Olympization and democratization, always wants to preserve its unique spirit. As a symbol of this mentality, once the Pontoise ceremony is over, Juan Renux and his friends prefer to take their board to ride the brand new surface rather than go for a friendly drink organized after the schoolchildren have left.