IOC sports director Kit McConnell speaks to Broadcast Sport about plans around sports such as breaking, skateboarding, and BMX
Urban sports are important to the future of the Olympics as, according to IOC sports director Kit McConnell, they are, “accessible and inclusive,” and, “they can be practiced with relatively low-cost equipment and in a variety of settings, making them accessible to people of all backgrounds.”
Speaking to Broadcast Sport ahead of the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics, which will see breaking added to the programme for the first time as well as the continuation of sports such as skateboarding and BMX, McConnell outlined the organisations plans to appeal to younger audiences.
He explained, “We need to take a holistic approach to engaging with fans, giving them opportunities to experience the excitement and energy of the Olympic Games, which we hope will inspire them to become fans of the Games as a whole.
“In terms of breaking and skateboarding in Paris, they were proposed by the Organising Committee, along with surfing and sport climbing too. One of the main reasons for their proposal is that there is already strong interest in these sports in France, which means that there is already a solid base for engagement.”
He added, “From the IOC’s perspective, content is key. New sports such as breaking, skateboarding, surfing, and sport climbing, are an important part of our digital engagement and marketing efforts. Working closely with our partners, we’re producing content that that showcases the talents of athletes, their stories, and the rich culture surrounding these sports, with the goal of leveraging their popularity. We’re also conscious of the need to deliver this content through platforms that are easily accessible, particularly with younger audiences.”
This includes initiatives such as the Let’s Move Street Challenge, which sees BMX, breaking and skateboarding enthusiasts from around the world invited to showcase their best sporting and creative moves by sharing a 30-second video of their skills. McConnell explained, “The competition provided a platform for everyone to participate, not just elite athletes, encouraging young people to create content and connect with like-minded individuals from around the world, fostering a sense of community and involvement.”
There are also in-person events like the Olympic Qualifier Series, which aim to blend sport and culture. McConnell laid out the plan, “Two events will be held, in Shanghai [16-19 May] and Budapest [20-23 June], and will feature the best athletes in BMX freestyle, breaking, skateboarding, and sport climbing.
“The Series will offer athletes in these sports a direct qualification pathway to Paris 2024, bringing all the action together in one urban park environment. Half of the athlete quota in the sports comes directly from the Olympic Qualifier Series which has been developed in partnership with the International Federations.
“The project is a result of the IOC’s Olympic Agenda 2020+5 strategy and aims to enhance the qualification process for the Games as well as elevate athlete profiles. With a strong focus on young people, the Series blends sport with urban culture in two festival-style events. The unique approach makes it more than a competition; it’s a cultural experience merging sport, art, music and urban culture, connecting with diverse audiences and innovating Olympic engagement.”
The likes of BMX, breaking, surfing, skateboarding, and sport climbing won’t be the end. The 2028 LA Games are set to feature baseball/softball, cricket (T20), flag football, lacrosse (sixes) and squash, and McConnell said, “This is another example of the continued evolution of the sports programme and the opportunities such innovation presents in terms of reaching new audiences.
“So, while breaking, BMX freestyle, and skateboarding offer significant opportunities, we remain flexible and open to the possibility of introducing other youth-focused sports in future Olympic Games. Fundamental to this is the IOC’s commitment to working with partners to make the Olympic Games more inclusive and engaging for all audiences.”