It makes sense that the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics could play a major role in helping surfing and skateboarding earn regular spots at the Summer Games.
Prototypical Southern California hobbies recently made their Olympic debut in Tokyo and will be on the ‘extra’ list in Paris in three years. Olympic officials on Thursday offered to keep them – along with sport climbing – in Los Angeles as well.
“It’s… three!” Sabatino Aracu, head of the International Skateboarding Federation, said in response to his possible participation in other Games.
The International Olympic Committee is expected to approve the addition in a session before the Beijing Winter Games in February. LA28 organizers have expressed support, with President Casey Wasserman noting that the sports “share a youthful energy and a creative vibe and will be perfect.”
The proposal represents a technical but significant change.
The IOC maintains a core list of around 30 sports for the summer program. Host Cities may request several one-time additions that appeal to local fans. Paris, for example, made the controversial choice to add breakdancing.
Surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing were on the added list for Tokyo. Ditto for Paris. But for LA, the IOC Executive Board suggested adding them to the core group. This does not guarantee a permanent place – all sports are reassessed periodically – but it does put them on a solid footing.
With an ever-growing fan base, the Olympic movement has struggled to attract younger viewers. This effort explains the addition in 1998 of snowboarding, which has since become a flagship event.
Surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing could follow a similar path.
“Now that we’ve seen them in Tokyo, we’ve seen their success on the Olympic stage,” IOC Sporting Director Kit McConnell said at a press conference. “All three had a very strong impact in terms of dissemination, digital engagement, all these indicators around the Games, and [they] reaches new audiences.
Adding sports would create some mathematical complexity as IOC President Thomas Bach does not want the Summer Games to exceed the new self-imposed limit of 10,500 athletes.
Three sports risk being excluded. Boxing and weightlifting have grappled with scandals related to leadership, doping and corruption. Modern pentathlon must show that it can cut costs while attracting a younger audience.
The traditional sport includes shooting, fencing, running and swimming. His international federation has made a controversial proposal to move the fifth round from riding to cycling.
Football is also in limbo as FIFA has raised the idea of holding its World Cup every two years, which could create a scheduling conflict in 2028.
“We will have to consider the consequences of such a situation,” Bach said.
All of this could give LA28 organizers more options. They were expected to name surfing and skateboarding as additional sports; now they can potentially use those slots for other events.
“We will continue to focus on the sports that are relevant to Los Angeles, providing an incredible experience for fans and contributing to the success of the Games,” Wasserman said in a statement.
But with suggested additions not due until 2023, the organizing committee could also choose to save money by offering fewer sports.