Rolling With The Times
By Heidi Lemmon
On June 8, 2017, “Inside the Games” announced that freestyle BMX and skateboarding will be added to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, in 2020. BMX riders will compete in “park,” which will be the same skatepark that skateboarders use. Both men and women will be competing.
Freestyle BMX is facing a few challenges here in the United States. Team USA likes to bring home the gold, but will that be possible for BMX riders?
The biggest problem facing Team USA is not the lack of funding (the International Olympic Committee does not fund first-time sports) or the issues with governing bodies fighting for control (Union Cycliste Internationale vs. the International BMX Freestyle Federation); at home, the major problem is that cities have shut BMX out of almost all of the 3,500 public skateparks.
This is an issue only for this country. So how will our BMX team measure up? How will members train? Where will our future riders come from?
Right now, USA BMX riders are a force to be reckoned with, but they don’t have a way to develop new talent at the grassroots level. Many young BMX riders are switching to skateboards so they can ride the parks; meanwhile, older riders are risking tickets and angry skateboarders by sneaking into parks to ride, with parents paying upwards of $1,500 a week for younger kids to attend a BMX camp.
Supporting The Sport
What can your city do to support Freestyle BMX for the Tokyo Olympics and beyond?
1. Open your existing park(s) to BMX. If your park is small, you might want to set separate days or hours.
2. Build a new BMX park. A BMX park is essentially the same as any well-designed skatepark, and the Olympic skateboarders and BMX riders will compete on the same course. The Olympic discipline will be “park,” but just as “street” is the most popular discipline in skateboarding, it is also the most popular in BMX. If you can afford to build both, by all means do it. If you can only afford one, then focus on park. Be forewarned—any park that is built for BMX will also be ridden by skateboarders. It’s not likely you will be able to keep them out. The same skateboarders who tell you never to allow BMX in the skatepark will be lining up to ride the BMX park and will assure you it’s safe.
3. Build more parks. Sao Paulo, Brazil, has pledged to build 100 skateparks! Brazil is home to some of the best skateboarders in the world, including Pedro Barros, who has been unbeatable.
4. Get girls on boards and BMX bikes! The Olympics require 50-percent men and 50-percent women. Setting aside time for beginners at parks and offering coaching is the best way to develop talent.
5. Host contests. Contests are easy to produce and should be fun. Youth will learn: respect, working together, good sportsmanship, competition, stress management, making friends, listening to good coaches, health and fitness, and leadership. Contests should focus on a personal-best first and winning second. The child who moves from last to 10th is cause for a celebration!
Can you safely allow BMX into parks? The answer is yes, but don’t take my word for it. Here are some other people whom you can contact and ask questions. They have ample experience with BMX and can share their experiences with you.
Bart DeJong, European creator of Fat BMX magazine and the BMX network, is the founding member of IBMXFF, and working hard on the Tokyo Olympics for 2020: “In Europe most public parks are accessible by anything that rolls without an engine. Tax money from the cities is being used for the builds, so use is for all people with all of their rolling equipment, from skateboards to BMX bikes, scooters to rollerblades, and everything in between. It doesn't even make sense to ban one of the user groups. Everyone is there for the same reasons: learning tricks and having fun, and hopefully having fun learning new tricks. Hobbies don't exist of just soccer, tennis and hockey any longer. The youth has discovered different individual sports, and meeting at the local action sports park has become a common activity today.”
Contact him at email@example.com.
Long Beach, Calif.
Former Long Beach councilman and skatepark advocate Mike Donelon left politics to work full-time with local kids and founded Action Sports Kids Foundation (“ASK”), a proactive organization. He has also pioneered a movement to open public parks to all youth on wheels. Donelon has changed all five of Long Beach’s skateparks to all-wheel parks. Visit www.asklongbeach.org for more detailed information or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Santa Monica, Calif.
Rick Boisdeau, a BMX dad who has a BMX son, has been running the day-to-day operations at the Cove Skatepark of Santa Monica for 10 years. “I think the Olympics are a great idea and looking forward to seeing if any of our riders make the cut. Many of our skateboarders are pro now, and we would love to see one of our BMX riders bring home the gold.” For more information contact: email@example.com
Las Vegas, Nev.
The city has +22 skateparks, and all are BMX and scooter-friendly.
Santa Clarita, Calif.
Located at the George A. Caravalho Santa Clarita Sports Complex, the Santa Clarita Skatepark is one of the top destinations for skateboarders, BMX riders, rollerbladers, and scooter riders in Southern California. The park is unlike any other you’ll find and offers a ton in terms of entertainment value, with various ledges, stairs, planters, banks, and other street obstacles. Other features include:
• A 9-foot and 6-foot clover bowl
• A U-shaped half pipe
• A 10-foot square bowl
• A variety of rails and ramps designed for skaters of all ages.
For more information, visit http://scskatepark.com.
For Olympic updates on skateboarding and BMXk, visit https://www.skateparkassociation.org/olympics-in-tokyo-2020.html
Heidi Lemmon is the executive director of Skate Park Association International as well as a board member for IBMXFF and the World Freestyle Skateboard Association. She is the producer of the OG Jam series. Reach her at Sk8pks@aol.com.