‘Mockery’: Olympic breakdancing under fire

Val Pal: Valerie Acosta, 24, poses for the Los Angeles Times in Long Beach, California © Getty

Should breakdancing be an Olympic sport? Some claim that including the sport is a betrayal of the Olympic spirit, but others think breakdancing has earned its place in the limelight.

When you watch the Olympics in 2024, you will be able to watch a new event: breakdancing.

The International Olympic Committee has added breakdancing to the list of Olympic sports. Sports legend Michelle Martin said the decision made “a mockery” of the Olympic tradition. British breakdancer Karam Singh is looking forward to it.

Breakdancing originated in African American and Puerto Rican communities. It requires extreme physical fitness. Injuries are common.

Martin argues that events like breakdancing that do not keep a fixed score are open to corruption.

For some, this is a question of inclusiveness. The Olympics features shooting, fencing, sailing and horse riding. These are passions that are expensive and dominated by rich white people.

Breakdancing, on the other hand, was born in poor, diverse neighbourhoods. It is disadvantaged Black, Asian and North African communities that have taken it up and made it their own. Some think it is time the Olympics featured a sport with roots in these communities.

Some breakers are sceptical. They worry the inclusion of breakdancing in the Olympics will distance it from its roots.

Should breakdancing be an Olympic sport?

Breaking even

Give it a chance. Breakdancing requires as much athleticism as traditional Olympic sports, like athletics or wrestling. It is similar to other judged events, like gymnastics. This is a chance to celebrate a sport that was pioneered by the little guy, and make the Olympics truly universal.

Not so fast. The Olympics should not try to represent every sport: it should return to its roots, with scored contests and clear winners. There are 10 international breakdancing competitions: it does not need to be an Olympic sport. Some worry that the modern sport is becoming alienated from its roots in local communities.

You Decide

  1. Do you think breakdancing is a sport? Or an art?

Activities

  1. Write a letter to your headteacher suggesting that breakdancing be added to the curriculum, and explaining some benefits.

Some People Say...

“The Olympic Games were created for the exaltation of the individual athlete.”

Pierre de Coubertin (1863 - 1937), father of the modern Olympics

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Most people agree that watching the Olympics inspires many children to take up sports. After the 2012 Olympics in London, more than half of 12-year-olds in London said that the event had made them want to start a sport. However, many Olympic sports are difficult for children to access: 42% said that they had not been able to take up a sport because of a lack of facilities. This is not a problem for breaking: to become a breaker, all you need is your body, a speaker and some space.
What do we know?
There is some debate over whether the addition of breakdancing to the Olympics is a kind of cultural appropriation. Some think that it is obscene for the Olympics to reward people for performing an activity that is actually banned in public places in New York City, the city of its birth. They worry that it will favour richer participants who can afford to pay for training, and not the poorer communities who invented it. But others think it is a celebration of the creativity of its inventors.

Word Watch

Michelle Martin
A former squash player who was considered one of the best in the world at her peak. She has been lobbying for squash to be made an Olympic sport for years.
Puerto Rican
People from Puerto Rico, a US territory in the Caribbean.
Corruption
Some people have accused Olympic judges of favouring competitors from their own nations, especially in boxing and figure skating.
Fencing
A sport in which two participants duel each other with swords. The sport originated in Spain, which famously also produced the finest swords in the world.

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