Skateboarding made its historic debut on the Olympic stage early Sunday, with men’s street heats kicking off the sport’s four-day competition under Tokyo’s blazing sun.
The inaugural event marks a turning point for skateboarding, which has its roots in youth street culture and has influenced everything from art to fashion.
The men’s street competition on Sunday will be a star-studded affair, with who’s who of international skating competing.
But all eyes will be on Nyjah Huston of the United States and hometown favorite Yuto Horigome, who will skate on a concrete course designed with rails and benches emblazoned with the five Olympic rings.
By adding skateboarding to its roster, the International Olympic Committee hopes it can tap into its legions of young fans worldwide, who have built skateboarding into a multibillion-dollar industry.
For skating giant Tony Hawk, the sport’s inclusion into the Olympics is long overdue.
Tony Hawk, who is in town to act as a TV commentator, tried out the new waterfront bowl in Ariake this week and said he was surprised it took so long for the Olympics to embrace skateboarding.
“As a kid that was mostly lambasted for my interest in skateboarding, I never imagined it would be part of the Olympic Games,” Hawk wrote below an Instagram video he posted earlier this week.
Skateboarding, though extremely popular in Japan, is still discouraged in most parks and it’s uncommon to see skaters cruising down a street.
Just outside the skate park where the Olympic finals is taking place on Sunday, a poster taped to the exterior white fence banned skateboarding for locals.