If you like the X Games, soon you’ll have plenty to cheer virtually all year round.
Tuesday at the Upfront in New York, ESPN announced the expansion of the franchise into the Global X Games.
Beginning in 2013, ESPN will produce six world-class X Games events annually — two in the U.S. and four internationally.
Soon, a formal bid process will begin to determine the three new X Games host cities, which will join the current events in Los Angeles, Aspen and Tignes, France (where ESPN is partnered with Canal Plus).
Cities will be selected in 2012 for a three-year agreement and will work with ESPN to produce the events.
Legendary skateboarder, former X Games competitor and current analyst Tony Hawk spoke to Front Row from the Upfront to share his impressions on what’s in store for the Global X Games concept.
FR: What’s been the response to the idea of a Global X Games so far, from what you can tell at the Upfront?
Hawk: People are very excited. Everyone is either projecting what cities they want to have in, and I’ve heard of cities already coming in for bids because they would love to see this type of event there.
In terms of knowing where our sports are, where they’re popular, where they’re growing, it’s more likely Australia, Brazil, and definitely Europe. I would love to see it in some place like China. China embraces the culture of our sports, the fashion, the music. But China doesn’t really skate [or participate in] BMX or motocross that much. I would love to see that seed planted so that we could get more participants.
FR: Why do you think that is?
Hawk: I can only speak for skateboarding, but I can only assume they think they don’t have the room for it? They don’t [have lots of skating parks]. But I think that in a few key places, if they could be shown what is really possible about we can do, they would be excited about it.
FR: What’s your sense for the appetite for this sort of expansion of the X Games concept with competitors in the extreme sport community? Is there resistance from some competitors about being under a corporate umbrella?
Hawk: I don’t agree with the [thinking] that ESPN is taking over our sports. There were competitions in our sports long before ESPN got involved. ESPN didn’t necessarily change the format of how we do it, they just brought it to a bigger audience. I do believe that our passion, our lifestyle, our culture shines through. It’s not like it’s been sanitized or changed at all. In the beginning, there was some resistance within the hardcore community. I think that’s softened a bit. Nowadays, you are seeing the best of the best. It’s not like there’s a collective of skaters that are boycotting these events. You are seeing the true diversity of skating. You’re seeing the best riders out there, and now you’re going to see them even moreso.
FR: When did you first hear of the Global X Games concept and what was your initial reaction?
Hawk: Finally![laughs] To be honest, I was surprised at the number [of planned Global X Games events] per year. Being that each of these events will be as big as the annual X Games . . . To do an event of that magnitude six times a year is huge. It really says a lot about how much ESPN believes in our sports, and how well respected the athletes are. I was a little surprised, but there’s a little part of me that was [asking] ‘Why haven’t people figured this out sooner?’
I always knew that there was more to what we were doing than just a novelty.
FR: If you could compete in an X Games event besides skateboarding, what would it be and why?
Hawk: Probably snowboarding, not that I’m good enough to compete. It’s something I’ve done since it was first introduced to resorts. I was literally was snowboarding before it was allowed on the lifts.
FR: Are you still competing?
Hawk: I mostly do exhibitions and tours. To be honest, I like that this keeps my schedule free. I can prioritize my time as opposed to chasing the competitive schedule. Not that I wouldn’t want to do that, but at this stage of my life, I have kids. I have to choose wisely how I want to spend my time.
FR: Is there a sport that’s not a part of the Global X Games concept that you’d like to see embraced?
Hawk: I’d like to see surfing back in there. With this concept, there’s more opportunity for a surf locale nearby.
FR: Is there an ideal location that you’d to see the Games staged at?
Hawk: Let’s try Russia. Not Winter Games, Summer! Whatever gets skateboarding there. I’ve been St. Peterspburg, but I bet Moscow would be amazing as a host.