Albertans hope to breakdance to the Olympic podium
Paris 2024 Summer Games organizers want athletes to take the dance-sport to the highest level
Alberta's breakdancers are hoping to soon find a place on the Olympic podium.
Organizers of the Paris 2024 Summer Games have asked the International Olympic Committee to add breaking, as it's called, to the roster of competitive sports.
Their hope is to make the Games more youthful and urban — and it could be a good fit, as France is considered a stronghold for breakdancing.
Former b-girl Tara Wilson, who started breaking in the mid-1990s, says including it as a sport would likely bring in new viewers. She now runs Pulse Studios in Calgary and says she talks to her students about training athletically.
"We've always, for a while now, thought of it as a sport," Wilson told the Calgary Eyeopener on Monday.
"The kids and the dancers that are dancing at a high level are elite athletes — incredible, incredible athletes but also great dancers."
Breakdancing started in New York City in the 1970s and now has spread worldwide. Wilson said some of the top dancers are from Brazil, Lithuania, Russia and China, and they have a large and loyal audience.
And it was included in the last Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires as a male, female and mixed team events in breaking.
How to judge
The challenge now is to determine how to judge the sport at a regular Olympic level. At one time, the winner of a breaking competition would be determined by the crowd's cheers.
Now, the process is more formalized, Wilson said, with judges weighing athleticism, technique and artistry, among other points. The key, she said, will be to find a system that respects the event as a sport but also a dance and culture with a history.
"I'm not sure how they would judge it," Wilson said. "I think that's the big question, and that's the big kind of mysterious aspect to it and the source of a lot of the discussion at the moment."
In the Paris organizers' pitch, they said they hope adding the sport will increase gender parity at the Olympics. Wilson said she questions that because, although women are increasingly competing, breaking is still male-dominated.
"That has to do, I think, a little bit with the actual dance itself," she said.
She noted the style requires a great deal of upper body strength, which may pose a barrier for some women to get into the activity.
Paris has also requested to add climbing, surfing and skateboarding, all of which debut at Tokyo in 2020, along with what would be new events, such as billiard sports and chess. Karate also is scheduled to debut at Tokyo but Paris hasn't asked for those athletes to come back four years later.
The International Olympic Committee requires that no more than 10,500 Olympians can compete at one time, which can limit number of sports included.
The committee must make a decision on adding breakdancing as a sport by December 2020.