Posts Tagged ‘gymnastics’

Five Multicoloured And Trademarked Rings To Rule Them All: Live From The Sofitel

August 5, 2021

On Alaska’s storm-wracked southern coast, between glaciers, fish canneries and mountains jutting from the frigid sea, there shivers a dab of concrete. With a playground to one side, RV park to the other, the narrow mini ramp, flat-barred pyramid and handful of other obstacles of the Seward skatepark get hit up four, maybe five months before the first of the year’s six feet of snow begins to fly; there is one road out of the 2,800-person town and the nearest skate shop is 130 miles away. Brief as a subartic wildflower’s bloom, maybe, but skateboarding in 2021 reaches here, one of the earth’s ends.

Across the ocean and beyond what have come to be knowed as the Straits of Godzilla, skateboarding has thumped up against another frontier. “Now it’s their time to join the greatest show on earth,” a Brit announcer declared upon the opening of last summer’s most anticipated contest, and by any measure the most expensive — the Tokyo Olympics, or “Big O,” that $30 billion, exclusively licensed and endorsed celebration of humanity’s ultimate physical achievements, available for ad-enabled streaming on the country-approved viewing device that is always by your side, sleek comfort in this bacteria season. Another long-passed showman is said to have declared a sucker born every minute; Japan seemed to wish the whole affair had been axed altogether. For the International Olympic Committee, which itself stands to pocket around $5 billion thanks in part to the participation of Yotu Horigome, Nyjah Huston, Leticia Bufoni, Alexis Sablone and others, it is merely a way-station en route to the next deep-pocketed city willing to divert tens of billions to erect a suitable, perhaps disposable soundstage suitable for the organization’s next televised engagement.

A wet pop, a sly come-hither stare, the jingle of gold pieces in a swollen gunny sack — all these are hallmarks of our human moment. In ancient days, these “Olympik Gamesons” swaggered through honeydewed midsummer festivals and the starvation crucibles of bitter’st winter alike, combatants tearing limbs free from respected opponents, marrow swilled, the ancient rites observed. These modern games, convened in the grasp of a planetwide pestilence, hardly are different. In the end, the Olympic Skateboarding Game Event has been… another contest. A day-glo, somewhat overgrown course that inevitably congealed into a handrail-centric hammer-measuring exercise, under the sun’s baking stare. Pros, slyly flashing those board graphics for that O-sized photo incentive. Behind the announcing din, snatches of skate video soundtracks. Tampa Am was mentioned.

Absorbing and calculating the Olympical frame requires setting all of this aside — unfocusing the eyes, breathing, adopting the uninitiateds’ vision, just off work, pouring a cup of goat’s milk and digesting — what? The top of some skateboard, yellow, blaring “SHAKE JUNT.” Speak the language — commentators largely dispensing with attempts to identify and name each trick, breathlessly instead, “Yuto doing what Yuto does.” “The greatest frontside flip that will ever be done.” There are passing stabs at the byzantine scoring system, no matter — the higher the number, the better to tickle the camera-bearing drones and impassively masked, lanyard-draped spectators. Between jumping, spinning and falling (from Twitter: the world’s best, these are?) young faces and unkempt hair step off the ramps, proffering Samsung electronic devices, light beer, community building on Facebook. In the heat of the final heat, these airpodded disciples of Greg Lutzka’s celebratory finger-snaps bob their heads, hitch up their committee-approved tank tops, take a few pushes and, “LET’S GOOOOO”

The feeling runs deeper when you’re ripping on behalf of your nation, or at least trying not to draw the ire of the powered brass and unelected punditry. Sincerities in those IG apologies to entire countries where, in the past (or present) attempting these Olympic-type feats beyond the presanctioned zones could catch you a ticket, a night in jail, a court date. You see Tony Hawk in a Nike dad polo amble onto ESPN, hiking his pants to show off shinners and ambassadoring among sportscaster hosts who talk of “unbelievable drive” and seem like maybe they get it?

Yes: Inspiring to see Alexis Sablone, of ‘PJ Ladd’s Wonderful, Horrible Life,’ of MIT, of Alltimers, in her mid-30s kickflip 50-50 a big hubba on global TV. Funa Nakayama frontside crooked grinding a 12-stair handrail in a contest run, sheesh. Aurélien Giraud whipping out a hardflip backside lipslide on the gap to rail, achieving international hearthrob status. Pedro Barros, bleached blond and green, barreling and blasting through these Tokyo bowls.

Skateboard industry magnates years ago ceded their governance aspirations to a decades-old rollerskating organization so that the International Olympic Committee could improve its multibillion-dollar event’s appeal to networks and advertisers targeting young consumers and their disposable incomes. Is it working? The IOC has trumpeted the unique eyeballs attuned to skateboarding and surfing, though in context these seem like medals for highest pressure flip: The US, the IOC’s biggest market, is delivering the lowest viewership in 33 years, and ratings sag across Europe too. Prime time coverage is averaging about half that of the 2016 Rio Olympiads, leaving broadcasters to offer bonus spots to disgruntled advertisers. Tokyo’s hospitality industry sunk $14 billion into Olympic-ready accommodations, now rewarded by the Covid-19 Delta variant and half a million cancellations. Japan ponied up for a new stadium, plus a state of the art swimmin hole, gymnastics gym and badminton complex; you already know what happens next. Whereas hosting the Olympics usually costs host cities and countries nearly three times more than budgeted, the Tokyo ones are running around 400% higher.

The International Olympic Committee itself seems likely to do okay, standing to make an estimated $3 billion to $5 billion from television rights alone. Then again, the IOC has had a tough run over the last few decades. There was the bribery scandal around the 2002 winter Olympics in Salt Lake City that allegedly included tuition, violins and plastic surgery. There were the charges that the Olympics looked the other way on China’s crackdowns on protests and press freedom around the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and forced evictions in Rio de Janiero to construct the venues for the 2016 competitions. There also was the apparent 2014 Russian state-sponsored doping program, reportedly overseen by the country’s intelligence agency. The Tokyo Olympics got dealt a corruption scandal before the contests were even postponed last year, with watches and cameras allegedly passed out to secure votes for the city’s hosting bid.

And the skaters? Medal-getters stand to be paid handsomely, by skate-contest standards, even by the most relatively tightfisted countries. For skateboarders the world over, the industry heads who make their livings selling and marketing skateboard and skateboard-adjacent products and services promise that there will be benefits both fringe and tangible. Vague respect of one’s schoolmates or secular coworkers, perhaps, an animated dissection of the athletic benefits from Nyjah Huston-style short shorts at the next neighborhood barbecue. If nothing else, bro, think of the parks that will be built; more prefabricated obstacles, the better to practice, nicer fences.

Tony Hawk’s adage went that the Olympics needed skateboarding more than skateboarding needed the Olympics, and it was true as far as that went. But that presumed the question of whether, not when, Olympic-sanctioned skateboarding events would be offered to broadcast networks and advertisers. It is beyond the parameters of a weblogging internet site to pontificate on whether or how the shot-putters of the world would get on without the Olympics, or the long-jumpers and pole vaulters. The Olympics backed Skatistan, and medal-powered winnings presumably will provide Benzes and other luxury goods to certain of the contest skating class, maybe. On Alaska’s pebbly fringe, though, no Olympic largesse was needed to sketch out the mini ramp. Skateboarding, in its handful of decades of life, of its own accord already has penetrated Brazilian favelas, pushed through the Iron Curtain, east Africa, Mongolia, Peoria, Siberia.

Were the oft-obstructed Olympic long lens shots a quiet tribute to the ominous video style of the now-defunct Numbers Edition? Will a pickup in sales of Yuto pro models for April offset Shane O’Neill himself missing out on an Olympic medal payoff? Being honest would Jereme Rogers have won all this shit if this was ’06? What new spots will emerge once the newly built Tokyo venues fall vacant in a few weeks’ time? Which drew a bigger audience of U.S. skaters, the Olympics or the Dipset/Lox Verzuz? Should Fat Joe really just have brought himself out at the Verzuz?

Lords of Tha Rings, The Magic Castle, and The Magician’s Secret

August 7, 2016

BB2

This week skateboard wheel magnates, action sport coaches and boardshort flame embroidiers linked hands to rejoice and toast a magnum of OE Ice 800 to Zeus, Hera and various lesser Greek deities who first copyrighted the Olympic Games and then agreed to various franchise rights that thereby bound mortals in commerce and athletic competition across the centuries. Just as an ashen altar hosted numerous animals sacrificed in the name of the dashing god of thunder and all skies, so too does skateboarding now ready its own fatted goats and oxen to sate a decades-long lust for Olympic golden doubloons, alongside hard- and softgoods vendors who have selflessly given of themselves for over a decade. These worthies reluctantly but heroically steered skateboarding into the blingy embrace of roller-hockey regulators and the International Olympic Consortium, a group of straight-up bros focused on creating the greatest sports entertainment knowed among the known universe.

Time was, a flabby oxen and a lunar cycle’s worth of fervent prayers to Poseidon, Hades or any number of other supernatural figures could get your javelin onto the podium, if you catch the drift. Nowadays, bovine growth hormone and illicit blood transfusions have angered the gods and transformed Mount Olympus into a $12 billion cesspool ruled by suspect windsurfers. Now, for the first time, skateboarders will prostrate themselves before these mighty gods and their painful thunderbolts with an official nod for the 2020 competitions in Japan, promising less actual prize money than at Tampa Pro but carrying a strict rules regimen functioning as a sort of ‘Infinite Jest’-length footnote to the 10 Commandments, except in Greek and prayed over by an international battery of lawyers.

But now is not the time to try and apply valuations to a cultural transaction in which participating skateboarders will be held to globally regulated anti-drug lifestyles, dress themselves in national sponsors’ chosen ensembles and ensure that all their relevant Instagram posts carry appropriate hashtags so as to comport with requirements of advertisers and broadcasters that have plunked down for the rights to control all Mt. Olympus-related communications:

The International Olympic Committee may not be able to stop doping, but it will be damned if it will let athletes or the companies sponsoring them tweet terms such as “2016,” “Rio,” “Medal,” “Games,” “Summer” or “Games” if the mention doesn’t benefit an official Olympics business partner.

If the context of “Rio de Janeiro,” “Effort,” “Performance” “Challenge” or “Victory” mentions on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram tie unauthorized “Sponsors” and “Olympians” they support to the “Olympics,” the IOC will intercede.

In return for all this, there are limited efforts and vague aspirations for skateboarding not be portrayed foolishly or in a wack fashion before a worldwide audience sought by advertisers, organizations erected to throw sporting events, and companies peddling skateboard-related goods, but few others. Vert vet Neal Hendrix, who has bushwhacked through a certain amount of bureaucratic underbrush on this long, strange Olympic expedition, offers a demo of sorts in Kevin Wilkins’ recent interview, gently replacing his ‘fucks’ with basic cable-friendly ‘Fs’ and ‘freakins.’ Gary Ream, whose background in gymnastics and BMX hospitality helped create the Woodward Skateboarding Camp chain, says not to sweat stuff like uniforms and other stuff because it’s like four years away. As for Tony Hawk’s famed observation that the Olympics needs skateboarding more than the other way around?

“Come on—skateboarding is all about commercial. It’s all about sponsorship. Look how many skateboard companies… It’s cool. It’s free enterprise. It’s OK. If somebody makes out a little bit more than skateboarding does, so be it.”

Now, with committees of icon advisors, international event coordinators and women toiling under the observation of the Roller Sports Federation to shape a 2020 Olympic skateboard event, the time is upon us to turn away from the bawdy and blaring spectacle of Rio, weaponized Zika mosquitoes and toxic sludge. Now is the hour for anthem humming and reflecting upon the values, truths and yes, occasional heathen sacrifices, that brought skateboarding to this hallowed juncture. Via the KOTR Thrasher:

How did you learn to hypnotize chickens?
Jason Jessee: It’s a talent you’re born with but you may not realize it until your best friend’s dad tells you how to do it. My homie Manuel Hernandez’s dad is a Watsonville legend, so I learned it from him. You just have to be really sure of yourself and hopefully you have a girlfriend and everything’s cool with that. Hopefully you have the relationship side handled. You go in there with a solid relationship and you attack them. You don’t even really touch them. You don’t squeeze them or anything. You’re just really gentle with them but you’re not gentle mentally.

Are they like pit bulls in that they can sense fear?
Yeah. They’ll wait until you’re off guard and they’ll attack you from behind — attack your balls and cheeks. They’re just hungry. They can’t help it! They’re just hungry all the time. So you’ve gotta be gentle with them but mentally fierce. You don’t want your mind to wander. You don’t want to be thinking about other problems.

So what about the part where you swirl your finger in their eyes and make them play dead?
That’s a magician’s secret. That’s only known to the brothers of the Magic Castle. I can’t really talk about it. You want to swirl your finger in their eyes. You don’t really want to talk about it, though.


Okay. Sorry. And then after he was hypnotized, putting him on the back of the stuffed dead rooster, that was just to shame him, right?
Exactly. Let him know he’s the lowest man in the barnyard.