The X Games is an annual sports event, controlled and arranged by American sports broadcaster ESPN (with coverage also shown on its sister network ABC), which focuses on extreme sports. The inaugural X Games were held in the summer of 1995 in Newport, Rhode Island. Participants compete to win bronze, silver, and gold medals, as well as prize money.
The competition often features new tricks such as Tony Hawk's 900 in skateboarding, Travis Pastrana's double backflip in freestyle motocross, Heath Frisby's first ever snowmobile front flip in Snowmobile Best Trick, and Torstein Horgmo's first landed triple flip in a snowboard competition. Concurrent with competition is the "X Fest" sports and music festival, which offers live music, athlete autograph sessions, and interactive elements.
The X Games gained media exposure due to their big name sponsors, top-tier athletes, and consistent fan attendance. As the Journal of Sport Management (2006) explains, Generation X and Generation Y are the two demographics most highly valued by marketers. This creates a broad approach on marketing towards that certain demographic, which is why the X Games marketing and economic outlook is so “out of the box.” According to ESPN (2008), the Winter X Games inaugural year, 1997, was televised in 198 countries and 38,000 spectators attended the four day event. In 1998, the attendance dropped to 25,000 spectators. But just two years later, a record attendance of 83,500 people attended the Winter X Games' East Coast debut. The X Games and Winter X Games continue to grow with the popularity of action sports and the athletes who compete in them.
As part of the X Games, there have been performances by various rock bands over the years, as well as a DJ being on-site at all events. The X Games have made it a point since its founding to stage an eco-friendly event. Such measures include using biodiesel fuel in their vehicles and organizing recycling campaigns.
Variation of X Games logo, used for Winter X Games
The Winter X Games VIII in 2002 was the first time that an X Games event was televised live and also had coverage by ESPN's flagship news program, SportsCenter. Viewership across the three networks that carried coverage of the event – ABC Sports, ESPN, and ESPN2 – exceeded 2001's household average by 30% according to Nielsen Media Research. The event also reached record highs in several demographic categories. To accommodate the first-time live coverage, nighttime competitions were added, resulting in record attendance for the Aspen/Snowmass venue.
The 2002 Winter X Games were a huge year for ESPN and the X Games. It was the first year that the games were held in Aspen Colorado at Buttermilk Mountain. The Games continued to add new events including the ski slopestyle event and the ski superpipe event. The most memorable incident of the 2002 Games was when the entire 2002 U.S. Olympic freestyle snowboarding team showed up to compete in the Winter X snowboard superpipe event, just weeks before the Salt Lake City Olympics. Also in 2002, ESPN announced the establishment of the X Games Global Championship. The Global Championship featured two distinct venues hosting competitions in summer and winter action sports simultaneously. It consisted of six teams of the World’s top athletes, grouped together by their region of origin, to compete in the four day event. The winter sports were held in Whistler Blackcomb Resort in British Columbia, and the events included snowboarding and skiing.
The Winter X Games are held in January or February (usually in January) and the Summer X Games are usually held in August, both in the United States. The location of the Winter X Games is in Aspen, Colorado through 2019, while the location for the Summer X Games has been in Los Angeles, changing to Austin in June 2014. The X Games also has international competitions and demos around the world that are held at varying times throughout the year. The games are shown live on television.
The Winter X Games are, as described by ESPN (2008), a competition compiled of the greatest winter action sport athletes from around the world competing on an annual basis. The competition has day and evening events including skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling. The first Winter X Games took place at Mountain Resort in Big Bear Lake, California, in 1997. The following two years, the Games were held at Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado. The two years following that, the Games were held in Mount Snow, Vermont. Since 2002, the Winter X Games have been held at Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen, Colorado and, according to ESPN, they will continue to be held there until 2019.
From May 16 to May 18, 2003, the X Games held a special event called the Global Championships, where five continents (two countries in North America) competed in 11 disciplines. The event was held in two locations, the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas (where 7 of the events, including in-line skating, skateboarding, BMX and freestyle motocross were held), as well as in Whistler, British Columbia (where the superpipe events for snowboarding and skiing took place). The final team results were: (1) Canada, (2) U.S.A. (3) Europe (4) Australia (5) Asia (6) South America.
In May 2011, ESPN held a bid to select three host cities in addition to Los Angeles, Aspen and Tignes, to form a six-event calendar for the next three years beginning in 2013. In May 2012, the selected cities were announced: Barcelona, Spain; Munich, Germany; and Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil. The two European cities have hosted Summer Olympics in the past, whereas Brazil has provided several X Games competitors. ESPN, despite previous plans for a three-year run, opted to cancel the global expansion after 2013.
Jake Brown was hurt after landing the first 720 in big air competition. He fell from 40'+ and landed on his backside and back on the flat. The force of the fall knocked his shoes off. After 8 minutes laying motionless, he walked away with help. He suffered a fractured wrist, bruised lung and liver, whiplash, ruptured spleen and a concussion.
Simon Tabron made an X Games first, doing back-to-back 900s in BMX vert.
2008: X Games 14 – Los Angeles, California (July 31 – August 3, 2008)
Danny Way clipped his shins on the lip of the quarterpipe after a 20+ foot freefall during the big air competition, which the commentators refer to as the "second worst fall ever at the X Games" (the first being Jake Brown's the year before). After spending a few minutes with paramedics, Way limped back to the ramp and went on to nail the trick he had fallen on, coming in second place.
Ryan Sheckler won gold in street skateboarding, his second gold medal at the X games.
Kyle Loza won his second gold medal in the motocross best trick competition in two appearances by performing a never-before-seen move named the "electric doom."
Skateboarder Andy Macdonald won his 15th X Games medal, surpassing Tony Hawk as the all-time leader in skateboarding medals.
Rally racer Travis Pastrana reclaimed the gold medal by defeating Tanner Foust in the rally X final.
Jim DeChamp fell while attempting the first ever frontflip on a motocross bike
Jeremy Lusk won a gold medal in the freestyle motocross (FMX) event.
2009: X Games 15 – Los Angeles, California (July 30 – August 2, 2009)
Skateboarder Jake Brown won his first gold medal in the big air competition.
Danny Way won the inaugural big air rail jam, a contest which he created.
Paul Rodriguez won the skateboard street
Anthony Napolitan landed the first ever double front flip on a bicycle.
Kyle Loza became the first person to three-peat gold motocross best trick in controversial fashion by using the same trick he used to win in 2008, the "electric doom", especially after the judges had said that "innovation" would win the gold that year.
Ricky Carmichael fell and hurt himself on motocross step up. Due to the circumstances, dual gold medals were awarded to Carmichael and to Ronnie Renner.
In his first X Games appearance, the retired IndyCar champion Kenny Brack won rally X gold over the defending gold medalist Travis Pastrana. In a TV first, co-drivers Jen Horsey and Chrissie Beavis commentate live inside the racecars.
Ashley Fiolek, 18, won the women's motocross super X, becoming the Games' first deaf medalist.
Travis Pastrana competed in four events after pulling out of best trick at the last minute. He came back to freestyle after a 3 year break and took gold, pulling yet another double backflip, the first in X Games freestyle competition. He had troubles in rally, costing him gold in rally racing and the chance to compete in super rally, but came back on the bike and won his first gold in motocross speed & style, beating Nate Adams
Ashley Fiolek won the women's motocross super X for the second year running, becoming the only rider to do so.
Matt Buyten won gold in motocross step up, beating the former champion, Ronnie Renner.
Jamie Bestwick became the first person to 4-peat with a win in BMX vert.
Pierre-Luc Gagnon became the first athlete to win in skateboard vert three times, beating the silver medalist, Shaun White.
Garrett Reynolds became the first athlete to win BMX street three times.
Cam Sinclair made what some call the greatest comeback in action sports history, winning his first X Games gold medal in best trick by pulling a double backflip, the trick that bit him hard in Red Bull X Fighters only 8 months before, leaving him in a coma for seven days, and having him retrain his body, learning how to walk and, eventually, to ride again.
Ryan Sheckler won the X games gold medal in skateboarding street seeking redemption after his X Games XV mishap.
Nyjah Huston came first in the men's skateboarding street, his first X Games gold medal since his participation in the event at the X Games XIV.
Travis Pastrana fell while attempting a rodeo 720, or as he called it "the toilet paper roll", in Moto X best trick, breaking bones in his foot and ankle. Despite the injury, he competed in RallyCross three days later using hand controls mounted to the steering wheel.
2012: X Games 18 – Los Angeles, California (June 28 – July 1, 2012)
Bob Burnquist won his fourth Big Air gold medal, and his ninth total gold medals
Ronnie Renner won the gold medal in Moto X Step Up, breaking the previous record height of 37' by 10' making it the highest ever at the X Games with 47'.
Jamie Bestwick 6-peats with a win in BMX vert.
Garrett Reynolds 5-peats in BMX street, the only competitor to win BMX street in its 5 year history at X Games.
Elliot Sloan wins his 1st gold medal in skateboard big air, defeating Bob Burnquist, who earned his 26th X Games medal (bronze).
Vicki Golden wins her 3rd consecutive gold medal in women's moto x racing, defeating Meghan Rutledge, after Rutledge crashed across the gap. She also became the 1st women to compete in a freestyle moto x competition, earning bronze in best whip.
Vince Byron lands the 1st 540 double tail whip in BMX big air, earning the silver.
Kelly Clark landed the first 1080 by a woman in competition, in women's superpipe.
Torstein Horgmo landed the first triple cork in competition, in men's snowboard big air.
Shaun White became the first to four peat in the superpipe in X Games history.
Sebastian Toutant wins gold as a rookie.
During the snowmobile best trick, the brothers Colten and Caleb Moore successfully landed a two-man backflip but were disqualified because judges ruled the event as an individual sport. Daniel Bodin later took gold for the event.
Tucker Hibbert became the first winter X Games athlete to six-peat in any event with his sixth gold medal in Snowmobile SnoCross.
Shaun White won snowboard superpipe for the sixth year in a row and in the process shatters the height record out of a halfpipe with a 24'1" or 7.3m backside method air.
Elena Hight became the first snowboarder, male or female, to land a double backside alley-oop rodeo during a halfpipe competition.
The first triple corks were landed in the Ski Big Air competition. Henrik Harlaut earned a perfect score with his nose butter triple cork 1620.
American snowmobiler Caleb Moore became the first X Games participant to die from injuries sustained at the event. He died on January 31, 2013 from complications of injuries suffered in a crash on January 24.
2013: X Games Tignes, France
Iouri Podladtchikov lands the 1st cab double cork 1440 in men's snowboard superpipe.