I suspect that when Jamaican deejay Clive Campbell, better known as DJ Kool Herc, started looping together the siq-est beats he could find in New York in the 1960s, he probably wasn’t thinking about the Olympic anthem. And when he cried out “B-boys go down!” the dancers who took to the floor with all kinds of new and highly athletic moves, probably weren’t dreaming of Olympic gold.
But from wildly creative and humble beginnings, break dancing or, as the cool kids are calling it now, “breaking,” rose this week to new heights. Because the cool kids are the International Olympic Committee, and they just invited the b-boys to their party.
I mention this because, like me, you might not be paying much attention to the news since it’s all a little overwhelming and generally ignores (and/or misrepresents) the most important things anyway. Obviously, one of those most important things is that break dancing will now officially be a part of the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
At this point, you might be asking why. If so, you’re definitely not alone. There are more than a few (like probably at least four) internationally ranked squash players who are pretty miffed about the decision as their sport has once again been passed over.
All I know about break dancing is that it looks terribly difficult and also pretty darn cool, and though it strikes me as exceptionally athletic, it does also seem to me like a pretty odd choice for the Olympic games. So, I looked into the decision a little bit.
To be admitted by the IOC, a sport must be widely practiced by men in a minimum of 75 countries on four continents and by women in a minimum of 40 countries on three continents. The sport must also add “value and appeal” to the Olympics, can’t rely on mechanical propulsion, can’t be purely intellectual in nature, and I guess can’t be squash.
It was news to me that there actually are international break dancing competitions since I’ve yet to see one on ESPN, but there are. And although I had no idea break dancing was so popular all over the world, I assume the sport meets all these most basic criteria. There’s also the claim that break dancing is heavily influenced by gymnastics and martial arts, both of which are already Olympic sports.
The question remains whether breaking will add value and appeal to the games. The IOC thinks it will and touts a commitment to including more “urbanized events” that appeal to a new generation of couch potatoes who become sports experts for two weeks out of every two years.
They might be right. But they are also adding to the long list of Olympic sports with outcomes that, much like American presidential elections, are somewhat subjective and difficult to measure and that often result in protested outcomes that kind of make the world not really want to play anymore.
Then again, part of the story of break dancing is the dance battle in which rival gangs sometimes managed to avoid violent confrontations by settling disputes through the exchange of slick dance moves. Allegedly.
I am definitely in favor of more dance battles on the international stage.
Actually, I’d like more dance battles on the domestic stage as well. So, I guess, why not?
My apologies to the squash players.