The world of sports may be focused on London, but during the past week athleticism of a decidedly ballsier kind was on display in Los Angeles as wide-eyed kids, patient parents and industry hangers-on oohed, ahhed, gasped and clapped at the feats of physical imagination and occasional crashes that unfolded at X Games L.A.. Forget the Wheaties, routines and leotards. This was about going big or going home -- preferably in jeans and tees.
It was the 18th anniversary of the event, which has grown from a scrappy East Coast competition for bold pioneers into a full-scale, semi-annual media extravaganza, with telecasts across multiple television networks, real-time reporting across the web, and a fan feeding frenzy all orchestrated by a well-oiled schedule machine that kept the proverbial partygoing. Domestically, in addition to L.A., X Games hits the slopes each winter in Aspen, Colo., for "extreme" winter sports, while quietly working toward world domination with annual X Games in Asia, and Tignes, France, with forthcoming X Games launching in 2013 in other locations, from Brazil to Barcelona.
At its Los Angeles home, nestled downtown at Staples Center, music blared in every corner for a total assault on the senses, and the competitions themselves felt like small oases of skill and performance amid the crowds and carnival-style stands with games, prizes and photo ops. At any moment, fans could duck inside to see BMX (offroad bicycle racing and bicycle stunts) veterans Steve McCann and Simon Tabron practicing casual 360s on little bikes designed for throwing stylish tricks, and reaching heights beyond a beach cruiser's wildest imagination. Elsewhere, spectators could take in the roaring rally car and moto events on courses inside and out (complete with exhaust fumes clinging to the air); absorb the noisy barrage of products hawked along sidewalk corridors, or catch skateboard prodigies Nyjah Huston and Ryan Sheckler throwing intricate kick-flips under a scorching summer sun.
Sheckler, who gained mainstream fame as the star of MTV's reality series, Life of Ryan, is a garden-variety heartthrob to the TV-viewing teen set. But to the skateboarding world, he and his fellow competitors are elites whose fandom is built year-round through video parts, magazine covers and medal-less contests that barely grace TV screens. More »