The 2020 Summer Olympics, which will be held in Tokyo, have added 5 new sports, one of which is skateboarding. As someone who grew up skateboarding as a teenager, and is all too familiar with being chased out of public spaces, this lends a great deal of legitimacy to the sport.
It’s hard to think of a sport that is more closely connected with architecture and, more specifically, public architecture. Curbed’s recent long-form article about “the public spaces that shaped skateboarding” is a good reminder of that. Here is an excerpt (EMB refers to Embarcadero Plaza in San Francisco, which was previously known as Justin Herman Plaza):
When skateboarding debuts at the Tokyo Olympics next summer, some three decades after the first polyurethane wheels hit the bricks at EMB, it will have completed the long, improbable trip from criminal act to social and institutional acceptance. But even as an Olympic sport, skateboarding will remain a direct physical response to the varied terrain of American public architecture.
Interestingly enough, one could go on to argue that the history of skateboarding is really steeped in the adoption of public spaces that had, in many cases, failed to serve their intended purpose. In other words, skateboarders were often the only people using these urban spaces:
“What made Justin Herman Plaza attractive to skateboarders and work for skateboarders was its inappropriateness to the traditional city scale and function,” King says. “You had all these planners and architects in the 1950s and ’60s saying cities need these grand, celebratory spaces—and they really didn’t.” But apparently skaters did.
Welcome skateboarding to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.