Boosting the X factor in the X Games

By Peter Thornton

Tony Hawk. Photo / AP
Tony Hawk. Photo / AP

It will be the X Games as you have never seen it before. American TV network ESPN, creator of the X Games, has announced that the action sports event will literally become a global phenomenon.

Beginning in 2013, ESPN will produce six X Games events around the world - two in the United States and four outside.

ESPN will conduct a formal bid process to determine the three new X Games host cities, which will join the current events in Los Angeles, Aspen and Tignes, France. Cities will be selected in 2012 for a three-year agreement and will have production powers over the events.

Peter Thornton joined a global press conference with Russell Wolff, ESPN executive vice-president and managing director of ESPN International; Scott Guglielmino, senior vice-president, programming and Global X Games; and X Games Pro skateboarder Tony Hawk, an integral part of the X Games as a high-profile athlete and TV analyst.

What are you are most excited about with the expansion of the X Games?
RW: It is a very exciting time for the X Games.

This expansion launches in 2013 and the six events will run as you know the X Games, but in spectacular locations around the globe. One of the most exciting parts of this expansion will be adopting the local flair of each host country.

The bid process will be thorough, because we want to make sure we get the right partners and hosts for each event ... For example, if we staged an event in Australia, surfing would be an obvious sport that could be added to the X Games roster.

SG: We are incredibly excited to take the X Games to the next level. While we have produced events under the X Games banner outside the US for many years, these three new X Games events will be the same size and stature as the Los Angeles and Aspen events.

TH: It has been incredible to see the X Games grow from its relatively underground inception in 1995 to a thriving global competition circuit today. Our sports have benefited greatly from the positive exposure over the years, and I am proud to have watched it all evolve since the beginning.

What are some of the challenges to this global expansion?
RW: Timing is one that comes to mind. The bid process is very formal and we have [18 months] to complete that process. The co-ordination of all six events on the global calendar poses a challenge for the expansion.

SG: We see the challenge as an opportunity. The bidding process is about getting the right mix of cities and we'll evaluate all of the strengths and weaknesses of each bid and come up with the best six applicants.

Are you fixed on how many of the three new events will be summer or winter X Games?
RW: Applications are now open and we have only just begun the bidding process. We are flexible [about] how many of these events will be summer and how many will be winter X Games. The initial thinking was that four of these would be summer and two winter, but we are flexible on that. It could very well be three events for each - it will all come down to the bidding process, who shows interest and the strength of the applicants.

SG: The exciting thing for us is that action sports travel well. There aren't many sports that travel well. Soccer certainly travels well. Baseball travels well in certain areas around the world. Action sports travel very well.

We have had a nice showing from both winter and summer sports around the world and the expansion is all about pushing forward all of the extreme sports out there. We are open to discussing them all.

Queenstown in New Zealand has played host to a number of international snow events - how would you see NZ as a host?

RW: New Zealand would be a tremendous host of an X Games event. It has the right atmosphere, the people have the right attitude and the culture is a nice fit with the X Games. I would love to see some interest from that part of the world.

We haven't received anything in the way of an official application yet from New Zealand, but it would be wonderful for them to join the bidding process.

Katie Moses Swope (media manager): A lot of the top American snowboarders come to New Zealand in the off-season to train and the feedback we hear about the facilities is always very positive.

TH: The last time I was in Wellington skateboarding, it was one of the biggest crowds I had ever seen. It was awesome. They are definitely very excited about our sports down there.

Levi Sherwood has put New Zealand on the map in the X Games world - Tony, have you met him and what do you think of his ability?

TH: I haven't met him other than watching him compete. He is an exciting talent, for sure, and he has a lot of flair. Levi is one of the athletes in the X Games who is known ahead of his sport. He has a very large fan base and many people know Levi as the poster boy for motocross - he is a worldwide name in the sport.

Tony, you have played a big part in the global expansion of the X Games - how much would you have loved to compete in this global series in your prime?

TH: I would have loved to, but I don't compete any more.

If this series was around in my prime I would have been amped to be a part of it. It is a worldwide opportunity and I would have seized it with both hands.

What advice would you offer to young aspiring X Games athletes from around the world as they look to be a part of this global expansion?

TH: Probably the biggest thing is to continue to challenge yourself. Don't look to the American style and performances as your source of inspiration. Create your own style. We have a lot of diversity in our sport and the X Games has always been about celebrating the unique styles and expressions from around the globe.

We need to continue that and I am sure that will happen with the expansion of the X Games.

X Games expansion

* Beginning in 2013, ESPN will produce six world-class X Games events around the world - two in the US and four outside the US.

* A total of 130 hours of live TV coverage across the six X Games events on ESPN networks in the US and around the world will be supplemented by coverage on digital platforms, including a year-round action sports website.

* The top priority of the X Games will continue to be to spotlight the world's best action sports athletes in BMX, skateboard, moto X, and rally car racing at the X Games; and skiing, snowboard and snowmobile at the Winter X Games.

* Each X Games event will take on its own distinguishing character that will set it apart from the others, including the introduction of new sports and cultural elements based on the locations themselves.

* sports.espn.go.com/action

Tony Hawk

* Considered the world's best skateboarder. At 16, Hawk made X Games and skateboarding history with the first 900 (900-degree aerial spin) in a Vert competition at X Games in 1999.

* A major skateboarding icon, Hawk has 16 X Games medals, including 10 golds.

* Hawk has been an integral part of the X Games over the past 17 years as a fan, iconic athlete and TV analyst.

Coming up

Today
Adventure Racing:

Bivouac Outdoors Mt Isobel Challenge, Hanmer Springs 8km run (1000m climb), 23km

MTB:
The Big O Trail Run: Covering an anticlockwise loop around Lake Okataina, the 35km event follows a mix of well-established bushwalking tracks, private farm tracks and an untracked native bush section

Sunday
Multisport:
3D Rotorua - Off-road Winter Multisport Festival. Lake Okareka, Whakarewarewa Forest and the Redwoods, Rotorua

Running & Tramping
SBS Marathon Christchurch, Christchurch City

- NZ Herald

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