Many were surprised that the 2016 Olympics closed with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe emerging from a huge green pipe in the stadium floor dressed as the character Mario from Nintendo video games.
With the help of some video magic, the prime minister appeared to use the pipe as a shortcut from Tokyo to the closing ceremony in Rio de Janeiro.
The prime minister also brought the sport of half-pipes, quarter pipes, ollies and kickflips to the Olympics, as Japan added skateboarding to the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appears dressed as Super Mario at the #Rio2016 closing ceremony. @Matt_Dunham pic.twitter.com/nnbttJddww
— AP Images (@AP_Images) August 22, 2016
New rules from the International Olympic Committee let host cities propose new sports. With the aim of “bringing the Games to young people,” Japan added surfing, sports climbing, karate, baseball and softball to the 2020 events, in addition to skateboarding.
Skateboarding traces its lineage to California kids carving through streets and the curvy basins of abandoned swimming pools in the 1970s. With inexpensive equipment and facilities and not much formal coaching, skateboarding is seen as an inclusive addition to the lineup.
Brazilian skater Tulio de Oliveira in 2010 led an effort to convert a disused park into a public skate park, where budding skaters can learn (and now, train for the Olympics) for free.
Today, athletes from around the world compete in the popular X Games competition, which focuses on extreme sports.
Two signature skateboard events, “street” and “park,” will put people on the podium in Tokyo. In street skateboarding, athletes navigate a course of rails, ramps and stairs to show off jumps and try not to wipe out. The park event takes place in bowl-shaped, concrete arenas. In each competition, competitors are free to skate the course for a set time, and are judged on their jumps, tricks and overall style.
The Olympic skating competition will feature 80 athletes — 40 men and 40 women.
“I’ve always believed that if skateboarding was properly protected and supported, its appearance on the Olympic stage could change the world,” International Skateboarding Federation president Gary Ream said.