After a year delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Tokyo Olympics started at the end of July. In this edition, three new modalities debuted in the biggest competition in the world: 3x3 basketball, surfing and skateboarding. Bringing medals to countries such as Japan, United States, Brazil, Australia, Russia, Serbia, China and Latvia, and involving a large number of athletes and nations, these sports carry urban culture in their movements and histories and are an important part of relationships in the city.
If, on the one hand, surfing has its origins in Hawaii and Polynesia, where the sport was practiced by different social classes and by men and women, on the other hand, its spread around the world during the 20th century, after colonization and a period of prohibition, were central to 1960s popular and baby boomer culture.
This surfing culture has been equipped with aesthetic elements that dialogue with this identity, as can be seen in the projects selected in this article. In addition, surfing also influenced the emergence of another rookie sport in the Olympic environment, skateboarding. Starting from an adaptation of the crate scooters, skateboarding took advantage of surfing, which was becoming more popular in the United States during the 1960s, to enhance the sport as a kind of “urban surfing” that could be practiced on the busy streets of the coast.
The sport developed and split into two main lines: vert, which is skateboarding practiced inside half pipes with aerial maneuvers and which has its origins in practices inside empty swimming pools in California; and street, the practice that combines maneuvers performed in an urban environment, with stairs, handrails, edges and other obstacles. With the passage of time and the popularization of the sport, while vert skateboarding became a monetized sport in official games, street skateboarding found challenges in urban life, often being treated as synonymous with vandalism.
An example of this is what happened in São Paulo, where skateboarding was banned by city hall in 1988 due to conflicts between skaters and São Paulo’s high society, and was only allowed in 1990 with the change of municipal management. As in other places around the world, skateboarding was marginalized, becoming an urban resistance movement in the dispute for the use of spaces, in which on one side we have a conservative elite and on the other groups that fight for more accessible and democratic cities. Since then, skateparks have become an important urban infrastructure, although the sport is not restricted to them.
In this same perspective of marginalization of sports and dispute over the city, 3x3 basketball appears as an important urban resistance sport. Known as the most practiced urban sport in the world, 3x3 basketball derives from conventional basketball played on the court, but with adaptations to be played on outdoor courts, very common in peripheral neighborhoods of the United States.
The experiences of these sports show how important it is for cities to build sports infrastructure into their urban fabric, not only for the health benefits of sports, but also as spaces that allow meetings, exchanges and the development of cultures and necessary dialogues within society. .