A History of the X-Games

Click Here to Begin Slideshow The X Games have evolved from a one-off “Hey look what we did!” event to an annual “Man, you’ve got to check this out!” All images courtesy ESPN/X Games Do you remember the first time you saw the X-Games? I do. I saw the BMX bikes and skateboarders and thought they weren’t doing anything my friends and I hadn’t done 20 years earlier when we were kids at Calabazas Bike Park (it’s been tamed way down for today’s youth) in San Jose. Then I started noticing little differences in how the competitors were riding compared to how we rode. They had more showmanship, more flair than we did as kids. We were trying to get more air, push our “tabletops” flatter, whereas the X-Games riders were “flying” and showing off. I wondered then who thought it would be a good idea to turn one of my favorite hobbies into something that 20-somethings could do as a profession - where and how the idea germinated and grew to what we know today as the X-Games.

A History of the X-Games

Click Here to Begin Slideshow

The X Games have evolved from a one-off “Hey look what we did!” event to an annual “Man, you’ve got to check this out!”
All images courtesy ESPN/X Games

Do you remember the first time you saw the X-Games? I do. I saw the BMX bikes and skateboarders and thought they weren’t doing anything my friends and I hadn’t done 20 years earlier when we were kids at Calabazas Bike Park (it’s been tamed way down for today’s youth) in San Jose. Then I started noticing little differences in how the competitors were riding compared to how we rode.

They had more showmanship, more flair than we did as kids. We were trying to get more air, push our “tabletops” flatter, whereas the X-Games riders were “flying” and showing off. I wondered then who thought it would be a good idea to turn one of my favorite hobbies into something that 20-somethings could do as a profession - where and how the idea germinated and grew to what we know today as the X-Games.

ESPN Thinks Extreme Games Could Be Popular

ESPN’s ‘Extreme Games’ debuted in 1995 with such sports/events as BMX Freestyle (above) and Moto-Cross Freestyle.

ESPN noticed in the early Nineties that the 20-30 crowd, so-called Generation Xers, weren’t watching SportsCenter and were becoming bored with the network’s live sports fare of mostly baseball and football. Something had to be done to gain a share of that market.

A Perfect Package

In the early- to mid-90s, many people in that age group were doing tricks wherever they could find the space on their skateboards and BMX bikes. Packaging mountain biking, sky surfing, roller blading, bungee jumping and street luging with skateboarding and BMX trick riding seemed like a great way to attract the 20-30 demographic to network execs. They called the show/event the Extreme Games. Gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded to the top three finishers in each sport/event.

X Games Is Constantly Evolving to Keep Interest High

Freestyle Skiing (above) and snowboarding were part of the original X-Games. They’ve now become part of the Winter Olympics.

That first show drew in the neighborhood of 200,000 spectators to Providence, Rhode Island, where it was held in 1995. In a 2014 interview, X Games legend Bob Burnquist (who in 2014 had competed in every X Games since 1995) was quoted as saying, “It has been a long ride; 1995 was a clash of culture. I did not know what to think when we got out of that event. It just progressed from there and X Games started getting closer to the athletes. It seems like every year something amazing happens at X Games. It has evolved a lot.”

The Winter X Games Followed

Trick/Freestyle Vert Skateboarding was one of the original sports in the Extreme Games.

ESPN, the force behind the X Games, knew early on that they would have to evolve to keep and maintain the attention of their projected audience. It would have to be fresh and relevant. Two years after its initial games, the Winter X Games - with skiers and snowboarders - were introduced and quickly became a hit.

Snowmobile Freestyle Joins the Games

Soon snowmobile freestyle and ice climbing were added to the schedule. Ice climbing wasn’t popular and was dropped. Snowmobile freestyle remains popular today. Over the years, organizers added such sports/events as GoPro BMX Big Air, Moto X Speed and Skateboard Park and Street. A musical festival was added in 2014 and featured Kanye West.

Soon snowmobile freestyle and ice climbing were added to the schedule. Ice climbing wasn’t popular and was dropped. Snowmobile freestyle remains popular today. Over the years, organizers added such sports/events as GoPro BMX Big Air, Moto X Speed and Skateboard Park and Street. A musical festival was added in 2014 and featured Kanye West.

A Quick Evolution

Arena Trucks is another relatively new addition. X Games organizers saw it becoming popular and added it to the list of events during the Summer X Games.

What started out as something small that nobody was sure about has evolved into a two season event with worldwide interest. Many of the sports have world championships that are held outside of the Games themselves. Brazil, Australia, Belgium, Japan and Italy have all contributed athletes to X Games competitions in both Winter and Summer sports.

“Fringe Sports” Go Mainstream

Freestyle Snowboarding is one of the original X Games events that now has traction in the Winter Olympics.

Many have called the sports that encompass the X Games “fringe sports.” However, the Games have helped some of them go mainstream. Skier X (ski cross) was added to the Winter Olympics lineup in 2010. BMX Vert and Skateboarding Vert were first included during the Summer Olympics in 2012. Rio’s Olympics Games saw the addition of Mountain Biking as an official sport/event.

BMX Gained Recognition

BMX riders/racers have, for the most part, been seen as outcasts by the sporting world. Their funny way of dressing and the fact that they are very clique-ish have worked against them, keeping them on the fringes of recognized sport. Multiple disciplines of BMX riding have been part of the X Games since the first X Games was held in 1995, but still it mostly remained a fringe sport, albeit one with a massive following. The sport, which mostly started in California, came of age in 2008 when the International Olympic Committee named it a medal sport for the Beijing Olympics.

What do You Think?

What do you think of the X Games? Do you watch or attend? Do any members of your circle of friends or family compete? What do you think should be the next sport or event held during the X Games that the International Olympic Committee should give a chance at the Olympic Games? Post a comment below; we’d love to hear from you!

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About Mike Aguilar 202 Articles
Mike's love of cars began in the early 1970's when his father started taking him to his Chevron service station. He's done pretty much everything in the automotive aftermarket from gas station island attendant, parts counter, mechanic, and new and used sales. Mike also has experience in the amateur ranks of many of racing's sanctioning bodies.
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