X Games expands globally
The list of X Games host cities will grow by three in 2013, as ESPN announced May 1 that Barcelona, Spain; Munich, Germany; and Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, have been chosen as X Games venues for the next three years. The new cities were selected from a group of nine finalists and will stage summer competitions through 2015. They join current hosts Aspen, Colo.; Tignes, France; and Los Angeles, creating a six-event (four summer, two winter) X Games schedule that will run from January to August in 2013.
"Action sports is a collection of activities that we think travels really well around the world," said Scott Guglielmino, senior vice president of programming and X Games with ESPN. "The reality of what we're doing here is we've created this huge stage for action-sports athletes, and we're taking that global now. We're providing an even larger platform for them to participate in and perform at, and grow themselves."
The long-anticipated announcement adds an X Games presence in Latin America, which harbors one of the strongest action-sports cultures in the world, and gives ESPN three X Games events in Europe, another region with a thriving action-sports scene.
"A lot of our decision on which cities to select was based on their action-sports culture and our point of view on how strong it was," Guglielmino said, adding that each city backed up its existing culture with strong visions of what the X Games would look like there. The new hosts also will introduce additional sports and cultural elements unique to their regions.
In the past, ESPN has organized smaller action-sports events and demonstrations in a wide range of nations, including Brazil, but the new direction signifies a revamped X Games brand, Guglielmino said. Not only is ESPN adding venues, but future X Games also will incorporate music, style and film elements to a greater degree. "We call it a transformation from an action-sports competition brand into an action-sports lifestyle brand with relevance to contemporary youth around the world," Guglielmino said.
Two of the new hosts -- Munich and Barcelona -- have staged Summer Olympic Games (in 1972 and 1992, respectively), and Foz do Iguaçu is regarded as one of the most beautiful metropolitan areas in South America. Guglielmino lauded each city's ability to contribute a unique flavor to the overall X Games brand.
Speaking of Barcelona, he said: "It's a world-class city, and their passion for action sports is absolutely top notch. I think the backdrop is going to make for a spectacular event -- they're downtown, with the water right there."
Of Munich, he said: "The organizing committee presented a very robust vision of what they thought the X Games could look like in their Olympic park, and I think that event in that facility is going to allow for tremendous crowds."
Although lesser known among mainstream sports fans than the two new European hosts, Foz do Iguaçu is renowned for its natural splendor and vibrant action-sports community. Located on the Brazil-Argentina border and flanked by a national park with waterfalls hundreds of feet high and miles wide, Foz do Iguaçu was chosen ahead of two larger Brazilian finalists, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
"Foz do Iguaçu is a city where I think the backdrop is going to make it completely unique when it comes to the six X Games events," Guglielmino said.
The possibility of an X Games taking place in Brazil has had the local pros buzzing for weeks. "For those who have never been here, they will be very surprised. The vibe of the crowd is amazing," said Brazilian skateboarding star Pedro Barros, who won X Games gold in Skateboard Park in 2010 and silver in 2011.
Barros also believes the new X Games events will help action sports reach the mainstream more effectively, in addition to evening the playing field. "It makes it more democratic, giving athletes from other countries the opportunity to compete in their own country," he said. "This can be the start of a new era in action sports history."