The new and exciting world of extreme sports is continually expanding as more and more people are discovering how exciting adventures and communities come out of skating, boarding, and biking. Exhibit A for how fast this growth is happening should be the X-Games. What began in 1995 in Newport, Rhode Island with (according to ESPN.com) 500,000 spectators has grown into a phenomenon too big for one country to handle.
Global youth culture continues to inspire people from all over the world to get into these sports for themselves, brining the adrenaline to their own cultural context, and the X-Games have had to find new environments to meet the growing demand. 2013 was the first year of X-Games in Shanghai, China and Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil as the action expands globally. Most recently, the games have expanded further into Mongolia, a landlocked country in east-central Asia between China and Russia.
This year, the Mongolian X-Games took place in the capital city of Ulan Bator, as 12 professional skateboarders traveled from Europe and Japan alongside thriving local interest, as together they filled the city’s Central Square. Alongside a monument to Chinggis Khaan, who once ruled over the world’s largest empire, the country’s youth found new opportunities to bring shred to the a rich heritage of ancient buildings and numerous mountain peaks.
Beginnings of X-Games Mongolia
This most recent event on August 17, 2014 was the most recent of three X-Games events in Mongolia. It started on October 19, 2013, when Dagina Khot, the Mongolian Extreme Games Club cooperated with local NGOs and the government’s Cultural Authority to respond to the high level of popularity of innovative outdoor activities among the youth around Ulan Bator.
Not just an opportunity for professionals to “show off,” the Games had a real impact on Mongolia’s economy and culture, most notably impacting the government to work towards building a 143.7 km bicycle road to and around the city, which, when completed, will go a long way towards improving air and traffic quality. The overwhelming success of this initial event led to a Winter X-Games held just a few months later, in December 2013. Nikle Ganbaa, a local company that manufactures bicycles and mopeds has seen a dramatic rise in business, as more local youth are exposed to the adventures riding can provide.
The 2014 Summer Mongolian X-Games
Announced as a celebration of Mongolia’s 375th year as a nation, the local X-games featured from noon to 9:00 p.m., popular Mongolian bands playing alongside freestyle and high-jump contests in skateboarding, rollerblading, and BMX. The four competitions drew 80 competitors. One skateboarder Erkhembileg, was only 11 years old. One female skater participated for the first time, a highlight that will hopefully pave the way for many others in a traditionally male dominated culture and field.
BMX in particular is a new sport to most of the Mongolian enthusiasts; it’s sometimes been a challenge to find ways to keep practicing in the long winters, but a small core of enthusiasts are helping their passion to spread. There were a few foreign visitors, most notably the American pro skating team Carhartt Work in Progress that put on a demo show as part of the festivities. However, at its core, this was a local, wholly Mongolian event, showcasing how local youth are enthusiastically getting into and building their own scene.
According to the event’s Facebook page the winners in each category were Bayrhuu and Tengis for skating, BMX: Huslen in BMX, Ariunbaatar in trail biking. One of last years’ winners, Turmunkh was overwhelmed by how youth have been so excited and inspiring. While he had to learn how to ride from online videos made in far-off countries, he now has a large group of young riders who he can teach personally. Mongolia is thus a very exciting scene of motivated riders, and one that can only keep growing.