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X Games turns 8

Ryan Slabaugh

Anybody’s eighth birthday is exciting. The cake. The candles. And don’t forget the superpipe.The superpipe?The story of the X Games begins in 1993, when a ESPN management team conceived the idea of an international gathering of action sport athletes. There, someone thought the term “Extreme” fit perfectly, so, in 1994, ESPN announced that the first Extreme Games would be held in Rhode Island in June of 1995.The birth of the event was quite a spectacle. In Rhode Island and Mount Snow, Vt., athletes competed in 27 events in nine categories, including bungy jumping, Eco-Challenge, in-line skating, skateboarding, biking, climbing and other pre-evolution events. But, with sponsors like AT&T and Mountain Dew nursing the event, the games began to grow.In 1996, ESPN changed its baby’s name to the X Games, which, for the most part, didn’t avoid the overkill of the word “Extreme” by the curious media. The primary reasons for the change were for easier translation to other countries and, of course, better branding opportunities.In 1997, the X Games found snow. The inaugural Winter X Games was televised to 198 countries and in 21 different languages. ABC picked up the event, and more than 38,000 people made the trek to Big Bear Lake, Calif., for four days of competition.In 1998, 25,000 folks gathered at Crested Butte for the second winter version of the X Games, which included freeskiing, snowmobile snocross and skiboarding. The event returned to Crested Butte in 1999, and included even more disciplines, including women’s only freeskiing.Then, with the new millennium, the X Games learned to walk on its own. Over 83,500 folks traveled to Mount Snow to show off to the East Coast what exactly these “extreme” athletes could do. Finally, a superpipe competition was added. In 2001, Moto X Big Air was added to the games, which returned to Mount Snow.And then, the X Games met Aspen.New events like ski slopestyle and ski superpipe helped draw 36,000 to the event, which precluded the Olympics in Salt Lake City.Last year, more events were added and the attendance grew to 48,700 spectators. Average viewership for the Winter X Games VII set an all-time record because ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC decided to carry the coverage. The three networks garnered an average of 412,7673 viewers, the highest in event history.This year, the event is still showing room to grow. ESPN will telecast the X Games live and SportsCenter will broadcast live on Jan. 26-27. And, last week, Aspen signed on with the Winter X Games for three more years.Ryan Slabaugh is the sports editor for the Summit Daily News. He can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 257 or via rslabaugh@summitdailynews.com.


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