The X Games will expand to six action sports competitions annually beginning in 2013.
Called Global X, the initiative will combine three new international events with the X Games in Los Angeles and Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo., and Tignes, France. The sites of the three new events will be determined by a competitive bidding process beginning in 2012.
Although the X Games has experimented with global events before, the new plan calls for competitions equal in size and scope to the current flagships in Aspen and L.A., according to Scott Guglielmino, senior vice president of programming and Global X for ESPN.
"The six events we're talking about, it won't deviate from the core in terms of progression, top athletes, and pulling out the biggest tricks," Guglielmino said. "What we are going to do specifically is build around and embellish the cultural elements." Each event may feature subtle differences, from scoring to sports. And the festival environment surrounding the competition will be tailored to reflect the culture and fashion of that particular region.
"Action sports as a category of sport travels very well around the world," Guglielmino said. "There aren't many sports that travel well. Soccer certainly travels well. Baseball certainly travels well in certain areas around the world. Action sports travels very well."
All six events will be treated equally from a competition, content, programming and marketing standpoint, he said. In fact, ESPN has committed to distribute 130 hours of live programming internationally around the six events. "The idea here is to make sure each of these events lives up to the X Games brand from all of those aspects," Guglielmino said.
Unlike the Dew Tour, a competitive winter and summer action sports series operated by NBC, the new Global X events will stand alone. "What we're going for here is a series of majors," Guglielmino said, likening the structure to those found in tennis and golf, "events that are under the X Games brand that are from a competitive perspective the most significant action sports events on the planet."
A press conference to announce the plan is scheduled for Tuesday, but a few athletes were aware of the news last week. Pro skateboarder and X Games legend Tony Hawk has been an integral part of the X Games since its inception. "It has been incredible to see the X Games grow from its relatively underground inception in 1995 to a thriving global competition circuit today," Hawk said. "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."
Sandro Dias, 36, a vert skater from Brazil who has won six X Games medals, said the number of skateboarding competitions worldwide has been cut by half in the past few years as a result of the worldwide economic downturn. Meanwhile, he said he's watched action sports surging in popularity. "I've been doing this for 25 years and everything is growing so fast," he said.
First held in 1995 in Rhode Island, the X Games is now in its 17th year (X Games 17 returns to Los Angeles from July 28-31). This year two events were held outside the United States -- Winter X Games Europe in Tignes, France, and X Games Asia in Shanghai, China. In past years, competitions have been held in 14 countries including Brazil, Mexico and Malaysia.
Beginning in January 2012, ESPN will conduct a formal bid process to determine the X Games host cities. Final cities will be selected next year for a three-year agreement and will work with ESPN to stage the event.
"Back in 1995 when we got started it was more of a fringe element to action sports when it came to the sporting and cultural landscape," Guglielmino said. "Clearly action sports has moved far more mainstream as a category of sport. For us this is the next logical step."