THE X GAMES, the 17th edition of which ended last week, have been pitting the best action sports athletes against each other since 1995, when the first Summer Games, then called the Extreme Games, were held in Newport, Rhode Island. In the 16 years since then, more has changed than their name.
In a 2009 Time article, the magazine differentiated between games like the Olympics, which would go on regardless of sponsorship and endorsements, and the X Games, something created specifically for sponsors to advertise. The events, location and athletes are brought to viewers by popular demand, not tradition or a complicated vote, and ESPN, a media company, runs them, not the 117-year-old International Olympic Committee (IOC).
I don’t know that this difference is a bad thing.
Dependence on advertising and control by a media company may make it seem like the X Games are inherently inferior to other longer running or non-profit-run sporting events, but consider this: The X Games are a speedy reaction to what their target demographic wants. They don’t need to include or exclude games because of the history of the sport, they can change every year to better suit their viewers.
The IOC needs to vote to include a sport before the host city is chosen for those games. South Korea was recently selected as the host of the 2018 Olympics, and the event program, which seven years from now, is already set in stone. The X Games can potentially find a new sport, aggressive ice fishing for example, showcase it, and then retire it when everyone realizes how crazy it is, before the IOC even votes on it.
At last week’s Summer Games, athletes competed in BMX, skateboarding, Moto X and Rally car competitions. Take a look at some retired Summer X Games events. They’re gone but they will be back if we want them.