November 16, 2019 6 min read
With all this talk about The Olympics and these qualifying events, you’ve also probably heard a lot about the X Games. As the X Games have been a major event for skateboarding and other action sports, how does it compare to the Olympics? Are they different?
The truth is, they’re very different. We’re going to be looking at the history, the sporting events, the process, etc…
Let’s take a look at the history of both events. Each event has their own importances and significances of what they mean for the sporting industry.
The Olympics have been a historical event for some time. The Modern Olympics are actually derived from the Ancient Olympic Games held in Olympia, Greece. These are said to go from 776 BC to 393 AD. Clearly, there was something very special about these games. But it took nearly 1500 years for the Olympics to make a come back.
In 1896, the first Modern Olympic Games were held in Athens, Greece. This is the Olympics that we’ve come to know and love. Many of the original events are still in the Olympics to this date. Gymnastics, swimming, cycling and fencing. The purpose of the Olympics is to bring the entire world together over sporting events. Combining all kinds of people from all over the world.
The other traditions are the opening and closing ceremonies. The Opening Ceremony is the longest lasting tradition in the Olympics, with the Closing Ceremony coming in around 1924. The same year the Winter Olympics began.
Additionally, the Olympics are held every 2 years, switching between the Summer and Winter Olympics. The athletes, managers and organizations have some time to train and prepare for the next Olympic Events.
While the X Games don’t derive from Ancient Greece, they have their own sort of history. The first X Games started in Rhode Island in 1995. The events being held were all extreme sports. Skateboarders, BMX Riders, snowboarders, etc… They just didn’t know how big of an event this would be. In 1997, these games moved to Big Bear in California.
There are many different opinions behind the name. But the simplest, and most logical, is X stands for “extreme”, which these games definitely are. The X Games are a place for the less popular sports (at the time) to come together and compete in their own style. As the Olympics or other major events weren’t accommodating skateboarders, the X Games put a focus towards it.
There are two X Games held every year, 6 months apart. There’s the Summer X Games, and the Winter X Games. So there’s about a year between each seasonal games, and for the athlete’s, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for training and what not.
The amount of time that each of these takes is different. The Olympics starts with the Opening Ceremony where all athletes are presented. Then the competitions and games go on for several weeks. Then, the closing ceremony ends it.
The X Games are run a little differently. They last anywhere from 4-5 days. With no opening or closing ceremonies, the contests just begin and keep going till the last one happens.
The X Games take place in sports stadiums that are already in place and they build what they need for the contests. At the end of the Games, they tear down the ramps and obstacles they built. It’s slightly different for the Olympics.
When the Olympics comes to a city, many times there is an entirely new stadium built. Then there is the Olympic village. This is a whole area that has to be figured out to house the some 13,000 athletes from all over the world that are going to be coming to one city.
Just in terms of scope and size, the Olympics is much bigger. It has more events, more athletes more sports and more tradition. For nearly a century, the Olympics were the ultimate sports competition. Winning a Gold Medal at the Winter or Summer Games was about the highest honor athletes could hope to achieve.
For awhile, the Olympics were struggling to keep up with the X Games among the lucrative 18 to 34 year-old demographic. In an effort to woo a new generation of viewers, the Olympics challenged its own tradition by adding several extreme sports to its schedule.
In 1992, it added freestyle mogul skiing. Six years later, snowboarding made its debut. As a result, ratings jumped by nearly 25 percent among Generation X and Y viewers. 3 years before the first X Games.
Now, skateboarding and surfing have been added to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. This seems to be to attract the attention of the more extreme sports viewers. As history shows, they’ve been slowly adding these sports. Snowboarding, freestyle skiing, and now skateboarding and surfing are all on the roster.
The Olympics are trying to attract more of a younger audience. They’ve been evolving for many years and are growing as well. Even one of the biggest sporting events in history needs to adapt to the younger generation.
One thing that is unique to the X Games is that it is only extreme sports. It is about a week of some of the biggest contests in extreme sports. There are contests like Skateboard Street, Moto X best trick, BMX dirt, Big air. The list goes on and on. But none of them fall into the non-extreme category.
Where as The Olympics have a ton of sports, very few of of these are extreme sports. Sports like gymnastics, curling, table tennis and so on. The X Games gave extreme sports a venue and platform to perform in, which is something they didn’t have before.
This is partly why there is a conflict among skaters about skateboarding being in The Olympics. The Olympics was always looked upon as the upright-follow-the-rules competition. And the X Games were where the more rebellious sports had their contests. In the past this might have been true. But not so much anymore.
Now days it seems to have combined with the Olympics continuing to bring more and more extreme sports into their lineup. By doing so, they’re adding more and more contestants and athletes. Even the X Games are adding to the contests. They added skateboard Big Air and Moto X Speed and Style in the last few years.
However, it was the X Games that brought us tricks like The 900, the first double backflip on a motorcycle, and just recently the first 1260 on a skateboard. This venue has continued to push the level and progression of skateboarding and many other extreme sports.
Skateboarding would not be the same without the X Games. It has been supporting skateboarding and skateboarders since it began. Skateboarding has always been part of the X Games, and very like will always be.
Another large difference between the two is about your country. When you compete in the Olympics, you’re representing your country in that sport. Athletes tend to put a huge emphasis on this in the Olympics. Every contest is about which country wins. Then, as you are going through the Olympics there is constant talk about which country has the most medals through out the games. It’s the main story line.
In the X Games you don’t see this very much. It will get mentioned, but there isn’t a lot of talk about it. While you definitely can (and are) representing your country, the X Games are more about progression and the athletes.
The trick progression is actually a huge part of the X Games. Knowing who has been working on what tricks and trying to land it for the first time in history has always been something to look forward to. It is similar to different world records that get broken in the Olympics.
The Olympics goes for world records and the X Games goes for new tricks, progression of the sport and what is possible in the sport. However, that doesn’t mean we haven’t seem some history making lines in the Olympics.
Take Shaun White for example. He has the most amount of gold medals for the X Games and Olympics for snowboarding. He’s done tremendous things for the sport by doing both.
Evidently, there are differences between The Olympics and the X Games. However, they do have a couple of things in common. The main one being pushing the respective sports forward and pushing the athletes to put themselves in the history books.
As you look forward to skateboarding in The Olympics and the upcoming X Games, take this time to progress yourself! Check out Skateboarding Made Simple. It’s the most detailed lesson plan for skateboarding that exists. With 9 different volumes, you’ll go from learning how to ride on a board, to skating skateparks and landing more advanced flatground tricks in no time! Who knows, maybe you’ll be competing in the Olympics or X Games in the near future.
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