Ottawa

Ottawa skateboarders 'disappointed' by Olympic elevation

As the International Olympic Committee adds skateboarding to the list of sports for the 2020 Games, the Ottawa skateboard community is 'disappointed' by the decision.

Concerns Olympic status will transform and commodify 'unstructured play'

Most athletes whose sport has just been given Olympic accreditation would jump for joy but the Ottawa skateboarding community wants no part in the Olympic Games that could work to transform their "unstructured play." 0:42

Most athletes whose sport has just been given Olympic accreditation would jump for joy but the Ottawa skateboarding community wants no part in the Olympic Games that could work to transform their "unstructured play." 

The International Olympic Committee has agreed to add five new sports to the roster for the next summer games in Tokyo in 2020: karate, baseball/softball, sports climbing, surfing and skateboarding.

It's not a sport, it's a lifestyle.- Gecko, skateboarder

Calling it "the most comprehensive evolution of the Olympic programme in modern history," the IOC said the skateboarding events would take places in venues in urban settings, in an effort to draw young people into the Olympics and to reflect "the trend of urbanisation of sport."

But Ottawa skateboarder Annabelle Chevrier-Lalonde​ is not impressed. 

"I don't think it's a good idea," the 17-year-old said at the McNabb Skate Park at Bronson and Gladstone avenues. 

An Ottawa skateboarder who goes by the name "Gecko," agrees. "It's not a sport, it's a lifestyle," he said.

'Not the soul of what skateboarding is'

Skateboarders are primarily concerned about how an urban activity that hangs on its street cred might be changed by its elevation to the Olympics. Many don't want their sport to become "mainstream."

Meag Isaacs, co-director of the Ottawa Skateboard Community Association, fears being part of the Olympics will make it easier for large corporations to "commodify" skateboarding and make it a more corporate activity.
Aaron Cayer is the owner of Antique Skate in Ottawa. (CBC)

"Considering that a lot of these large corporations that sponsor it still consider it a crime if someone's skatingboarding on their property... To me there's a disconnect there. It's not the soul of what skateboarding is," she said.

Her concerns are shared by the owner of Ottawa's skateboard shop Antique Skate. 

"People look at it more as unstructured play," said Aaron Cayer. "A big question going around is how is it going to be scored. I wouldn't ever want someone to judge (it) and say this style is the right style as opposed to this style. It's supposed to be creative and open and free."

'Doping' a possible issue

Another potential problem with skateboarding entering the Olympics is the issue of drug use. Cayer told CBC News it isn't clear if some of the best skateboarders would be allowed to compete.
Josh Warner-Jacobs says it would be 'sick' to compete as a skateboarder at the Olympics. (CBC)

"There are certainly professional skateboarders that actively consume marijuana. And they might be some of the ones that would be slotted to go and represent a country. So, you're like, who's going to go?" 

But not all potential future Olympians are dismayed by IOC decision. McNabb Skate Park user Josh Warner-Jacobs said he would be delighted to represent Canada at the Olympic Games. 

"That would be sick, I guess. But I don't know if I'd be ready for that."

Skateboarders pose for a photo at McNabb Park in Ottawa. (Roland Carrier/CBC)