Skateboarding icon Tony Hawk thinks his sport will give the Olympics a big lift if it’s added to the 2020 Tokyo Games.
"There are more participants in skateboarding than most sports so I feel like they (the Olympics) need our credibility and they need our excitement level in their Summer Games," Hawk said.
On Aug. 3, the International Olympic Committee intends to vote on whether skateboarding — as part of a five-sport package — will be on the program in Tokyo. The other sports are karate, sports climbing, surfing and baseball/softball. The plan for now is to approve all of them or none of them.
"Obviously skateboarding has a really strong connection with the youth and a great youth appeal and a passionate following so this is hugely exciting and we think a great proposal for us to take to the IOC session," IOC sports director Kit McConnell said.
With skateboarding already thriving outside the Olympics, Hawk said the sport could catch on with worldwide viewers as snowboarding did in the Winter Olympics when Shaun White started to compete in the halfpipe event.
"In the beginning, snowboarding was felt more chastised than embraced and eventually it became the highlight of the Winter Games," Hawk said. "I feel like skateboarding is on that trajectory, but probably is going to be more embraced its very first time out."
Street and park are the two proposed disciplines for skateboarding in Tokyo. Street is skateboarding on any flat terrain like streets and sidewalks mixed with stairs and hand rails. Park is a combination of street, pool, and a little bit of vertical skateboarding.
If skateboarding is approved, 80 athletes — 40 men and 40 women — will compete.
The question of how to qualify the skateboarders is still being discussed, but McConnell said the world qualification process would probably start in mid-2018 and run through mid-2020 before the Olympics.
Athletes will be drug-tested at both the qualification events and in Tokyo.
"That’s another benefit the Olympics inclusion gives us," McConnell said. "This is an opportunity for everybody that is involved in skateboarding to continue to develop the education program and to continue to develop the testing programs. It’s not just a matter of institutions alone talking to athletes, it’s about athletes understanding the importance and the values and speaking to each other about it."
Various skateboarding groups would like to govern the sport at the 2020 Olympics, but the IOC said the International Roller Sports Federation would be the recognized body.
McConnell acknowledged that the international federation hasn’t run skateboarding events at a high level. The roller sports federation worked with the International Skateboarding Federation to establish a committee to help set up the way the sport would be run during the Olympics.
The World Skateboarding Federation is also involved in a "wider sense," according to McConnell.
"The IOC has been involved in the process since the beginning and trying to bring the key stakeholders together," WSF President Tim McFerran said. "They identified the three groups are the key stakeholders in skateboarding that they felt should be the ones responsible for organizing skateboarding for the 2020 Olympics."
McConnell said there already are plans for Tokyo venues that would allow skateboarding to be "brought to the heart of the city and create a real connection with the youth."
Hawk thinks "youthful exuberance" is important for the Summer Games.
"They don’t have that element … and if they are going to get any younger viewership, they need that," he said. "So I think that (skateboarding) could very well happen."