Big air in the 2018 Olympics? The discussion is on the table
This week in Barcelona, Spain, amid the International Ski Federation (FIS) Congress, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) proposed the addition of new Olympic events, including big air and team snowboardcross. It’s a long time coming, as this discussion began formally in the fall of 2012. And while we’re still far from any actual decisions being made, this step is a big one, and having spoken with USSA reps over the weekend, there is a feeling of optimism in the air.
James Woods throws down at WSI 2014, Whistler Blackcomb.
In short, and I quote the official press release, “the USSA proposal has led to a host of new events being accepted by the International Ski Federation for presentation to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The USSA initiative added big air and team snowboardcross to the list that also includes an alpine team event, dual moguls, a mixed gender ski jumping event and others.” According to FIS President Gian Franco Kasper, the list of events is due to be presented to the IOC later this year.
Given the success of slopestyle’s Olympic debut in Sochi, not to mention the popularity of the Olympic halfpipe contest, it’s no surprise that big air is being given strong consideration. Action sports events like these are among the most popular with the youth demographic, and play a vital role in driving broadcast viewership worldwide—a big “Yes!” for the IOC.
Tiger Shaw, President and CEO of the USSA notes, “It’s vital that we keep our sports fresh and relevant to youth. We clearly saw the global benefits with the additional new events in Sochi. This is yet another step to keep the Olympics in sync with what excites kids in sport today and to build the brand of FIS.”
USSA Snowboarding and Freeskiing Program Director, Jeremy Forster, says, “America has long been the epicenter of action sports. We’ve continually taken a leadership position in pushing new events in the past with SBX, slopestyle and the new freeskiing events. We have strong multi-national support for this initiative and are optimistic that FIS and IOC will work together to get these events onto the program for 2018.”
One thing to note: there is potential that snowboard big air would take precedence over ski big air—at least in the early stages, as snowboard big air has been a part of the FIS World Championships since 2003.
I spoke with Tom Kelly, Vice President of Communications for USSA about this specifically.
“We’re now just saying big air,” he said. “Others can interpret. There will be many other sports on FIS plate.” Bottom line, according to Mr. Kelly. “This outcome was very positive.”