More people than ever before turned up to Jiangwen Stadium last Sunday to witness the gravity defying feats of the KIA X Games Asia finale. I headed over with some friends to check it out.
2010 is the fourth consecutive year the games have been held in Shanghai and the twelfth edition overall, though there was surprisingly little buzz in the build up to what is really a great event. Walking out of Wujiaochang metro station (listed on the website as the nearest stop on Line 10) we were expecting to be hit by an avalanche of ads, maybe a sign or two to point us in the right direction or at least a trickle of big haired, baggy jeaned skater dudes that we could tail to find our way. But no, there was nothing. I'd like to say it's because it was not actually the closest stop – that would be Jiangwen Stadium, where the games were being held which makes a lot more sense, but even on our way home we noted the absolute lack of anything to indicate the existence of Asia's premier action sport event.
Arriving at the stadium entrance, things started to pick up a little. There were banners and the distant sound of a PA from within the imposing stone walls ahead. We ran the gauntlet of cheap ticket sellers, traversed the tree-lined driveway that leads to the main gateway, purchased our RMB 120 tickets and were in. Making a beeline for the skate ramp where a small crowd was already starting to gather, and were greeted by a small sea of umbrellas. Even though it was only 10.30am, the sun was already beating down, and parasols were at the ready, effectively blocking the rays, and the view for anyone standing directly behind.
We craned our necks and watched as some of skateboarding's top names (including the legendary Andy MacDonald) cruised up and down the vertical ramp, looking like they were born on those planks of wood with four wheels. As each pulled off their amazing stunts; spins, kick-flips and rotations all with technical names that I don't know, the crowd watched in almost silent appreciation, which must have left the mostly western athletes, more used to the frenzied and vocal appreciation usually found at this type of event, feeling a little fazed.
After the skate practice was over, everyone moved en masse to the opposite side of the stadium for the Moto X Big Air demo where two roaring motorcycles appeared and proceeded to superman their way into the hearts of the two old ladies in front of us, ooohing and aaahing over these mysterious and brave leather-clad men flying through the air before them. There was also a mini mega ramp (a concept invented by Danny Way, the only skater to have jumped the Great Wall of China) which drew a big crowd whenever it was in action as BMXers threw themselves from its lofty heights, thrilling the onlookers below. For the full line-up and results, plus loads of cool vids, you can check out the website here.
Filling up steadily throughout the day, the event pulled in an interesting mix of people; far fewer young and punky skater boys and girls than I'd expected and far more local families with young kids and even bewildered looking grandparents in tow, which made for a much more family-oriented atmosphere. Despite a stage and a slot in the schedule, there was no live music which would have added something to the atmosphere but instead, the sponsors worked hard to get people psyched up with loud music and interactive fun. There was a huge queue for the climbing wall sponsored by Clear (because even extreme sports junkies need beautiful hair), though fewer took up the challenge set by Mountain Dew – strap yourself and a friend inside a giant inflatable, fluorescent green ball and be rolled rapidly down a ramp, bouncing off a padded wall below. It wasn't just the balls that were green after a round or two of that game.
All in all, it was a lot of fun, a great day out for people of all ages and very promising for the future of extreme sports here in China. If you're in Shanghai for the next session, I thoroughly recommend checking it out.