With all this talk about BMX Freestyle Park being added to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, we thought we needed some information from someone in the know. Cue Bart De Jong – a major industry mogul who worked all the way up from doing homemade zines and jams to now influencing some of the biggest changes in the world of BMX.
Check out the official info below...
– Bart, what's your involvement in the Olympics?
"The Olympics are three years away so I'm not sure in what way I'll be involved at that time in Tokyo in 2020. I started working for the UCI in May of 2016 as they needed help on the BMX Freestyle side. Hurricane, organiser of the FISE events, had struck a deal with the UCI to organise the UCI BMX Freestyle Park World Cups in 2016 and for the UCI, BMX Freestyle was a new discipline where they needed some advice, connections and guidance. I'm playing an advising role to the UCI where I bring feedback from the riders, the event organisers, and judges to lead BMX Freestyle in a fair direction. Since two weeks ago, that direction is now the Olympic Games in Tokyo."
– What do you know so far about the general format? Teams? Individuals?
"BMX Freestyle Park received 18 spots in total. 9 for Men, and 9 for Women. Getting in the Olympics meant that the total number of athletes was not going to grow. Yes, we would have loved more riders in the Games, but that way more athletes in different cycling sports had to give up spots. It's easier to take away 18 spots than 48, for instance. We were given the 18 spots by the IOC. It's something we can start with. Most likely it will be 8-9 different countries per class so one rider per highest ranked nations but this has to be worked out yet and it is not definite."
– Male and Female athletes. How will this work? Will they use the same course etc...?
"Yes, same course. Same number of riders. We currently use the two runs of one-minute, with both runs count system."
"With some mutual respect and common sense, we'll make things good."
– Will the course be similar to a FISE park course? Same designers?
"We have a multiple year contract with Hurricane (FISE) to organise the UCI BMX Freestyle Park World Cup. It only makes sense to have a similar set-up at the Olympics if these events are used as qualification events for the 2020 Games in Tokyo. BMX Freestyle changes all the time and also course designs can have different obstacles in three years from now. When we get to Tokyo, the BMX Freestyle Park course has to be top notch and up to date. That's what we're shooting for."
– UCI are obviously heavily involved. Will your judging panel be merging with the IOC?
"Judging will be a difficult part of the Olympics as it's a tough job at each event. The judges will be picked by the UCI and will be the best and most respected judges available for the job in 2020. The UCI will be in charge of the contest organising for the IOC so we'll have to work with their regulations but we'll be taking care of the qualified and experienced judges."
"When we get to Tokyo, the BMX Freestyle Park course has to be top notch and up to date. That's what we're shooting for."
– Will there be qualifiers? How and when will these work?
"In February of 2018 the qualifying system will be announced. This has to be approved by several commissions first. The UCI has a qualification system in BMX Racing that can be looked into for Freestyle. It's too early to say much but most likely the UCI BMX Freestyle Park World Cups and UCI Urban World Championships (including BMX Freestyle Park) will be events to score the Nation points in the years leading up to the Tokyo Games. According to the ranking the spots will be given out but more on this on a late stage."
– With Skateboarding being included too, do you think there will be any nod towards the culture that our sports have come from? Will there be any backstories on the culture / individual riders? Or will it be purely focused on performance?
"One of the IOC observers who made it to the UCI BMX Freestyle Park World Cup in Montpellier last month mentioned that they have to respect the culture of the new sports. Skateboarding has a similar lifestyle as BMXers do and I see the same questions and issues pop up. At least we won't be alone dealing with the IOC regulations in Tokyo but with some mutual respect and common sense, we'll make things good."
– How about commentators? They would have to be guys from the industry. Do you think they would help represent the lifestyle of BMX as more than Olympic athleticism?
"It's probably too early to talk about this but I foresee jobs for BMX MC's in each country as a co-host during the BMX Freestyle Park event. The TV host needs an expert by his side to get all the ins and outs about the riders and BMX Freestyle. It's up to the 'sport expert' to explain BMX Freestyle and what it entails."
"One of the IOC observers mentioned that they have to respect the culture of the new sports..."
– Will riders have coaches? Are you worried about any BMXers (or skaters) in the drugs tests...?!
"The UCI works with 186 National Cycling federations worldwide. BMX Freestyle is a new Olympic discipline for most of these federations. The way they support an Olympic BMX Freestyle Park program is up to the federation itself and is out of UCI's control. Developing a program with a national cycling federation is key but at a starting phase in most countries at the moment. 2017 is the first year BMX Freestyle Pro Park riders need a license from their national cycling federation to compete at the UCI BMX Freestyle Park World Cup and World Championships so they're aware of the new cycling discipline. It's not unlikely that countries will show support to the best BMX Park riders they have and that a national BMX coordinator gets appointed to lead the program to pick up the top riders and take them to the important events. The riders that sign up to the program will have to commit to their rules and regulations including possible drug tests."
– What are your personal thoughts on the news? Obviously giving BMX the spotlight on such a huge global stage will be a good thing in terms of exposure. Maybe some big sponsors will get more involved? Do you have any further thoughts about how it will affect the world of BMX?
"First of all, being part of the Olympics only will change BMX for a small percentage of riders. The rest can keep doing what they've been doing all these years. Want to film an edit? Film an edit. Want to build trails in the woods? Build some trails. Want to throw a jam and have a laugh? Get that jam started. BMX in the Olympics doesn't effect the biggest group in BMX individually. It gives the top Park riders a platform to shine. It's the biggest platform out there to shine, but it only happens once every four years. But while there, let's make it good. Let's get people stoked on BMX. If they buy a BMX bike after seeing the Olympics on TV, they can then decide what they're going to do; Race, ride Street, Flatland, Dirt, Vert, or Park, it doesn't really matter, we've added another BMX-er. The exposure will be good for the BMX business, we'll get more riding spots, it will create some BMX jobs but only if we make it look good and we have to do that part together. If the big sponsors show up we'll have to see, but at least the opportunity is there now."