The World Skateboarding Tour’s return to Rome for a Street leg of the qualification series leading to the Paris Olympic Games of 2024 is perhaps not surprising. Not only is international governing body World Skate headquartered in the city, but last year’s event proved such a popular destination with the skateboarders involved that it fairly begged to be hosted again.
One interesting thing- to my mind, at least- about the World Skateboarding Tour is that it has taken the international travelling skateboard circus to different locations than what we might call the usual contest tours. Rome was not part of the contest circuit during the Munster/ 411 Europe era (Dortmund, Antwerp, Prague, Copenhagen, Marseille, Lausanne being the other occasional axes at the turn of the millennium).
In 2006, an Etnies European Open was held in the city, but the financial crash of 2009 brought all the marketing budgets which allowed for Ryanair flights and enough prize money to merit the name to a halt almost worldwide, and only events with low relatively low overheads like Prague’s Mystic Cup surviving from that era to this.
Now, in this new Olympic era, with prize purses of six figures and all the attendant infrastructure, cities like Rome are becoming a new international skate contest axis of their own.
It is not hard to see why: Rome is one of the great street-life cities of the world because for 20 euros you can sit outside with a friend eating pizza the size of a cartwheel and two nice drinks with ice cubes that clink in the glass and watch the world go by in the same way the richest people in the city do. The city is instantly yours and you, part of it. That culture exists on every street in the city.
The contest itself also puts skateboarding in the heart of Rome itself- the park overlooks the Colosseum. No edge-of-town warehouses here.
Given those two overlapping reasons WST Rome Street is both a fantastic location in a fantastic city to hold a youth event like this. 272 skaters entered, representing 58 nations of the earth including some of the lesser-known skateboarding nations such as Angola, Venezuela and Bahrain. Again, that is unique to the World Skateboarding Tour.
With public tickets on sale for both semi-finals and finals the makeshift stadia were full to capacity, but there are partial and in some cases total course views to be had from further up the Colle Oppio hillside and through the park railings if you are so inclined. Something worth re-iterating here about all these WST events is that the semi-finals are always worth your time. Twice the number of skaters and half of them are going for broke on a Hail Mary run that either takes them into the finals with their idols or sees them watching with a gelato like the rest of us. So the semi-finals have an intensity all of their own. In Rome this year, a nearby firework display added to that drama in an unexpected crescendo.
The storylines of the weekend from an Olympic qualification perspective were the come-from-behind victory of Japanese stealth weapon Liz Akama and the return of the king in Nyjah Huston’s comeback victory after a 10-month knee injury hiatus. Watch the live broadcast courtesy of the Olympic Channel and catch a tour stop live if you can between now and Paris next summer.
WST Lausanne broadcasts live from the Segment Festival in Switzerland this weekend.
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