This was easily one of the weirdest events I've ever been to. And I've been to quite a few extreme sports contests, and even more festivals. The inaugural edition of World Urban Games tried to bring together sports and cultures that wouldn't come together, and honestly, I'm not sure how successful it was. But it's far from it that the event itself wasn't a success.
With Tokyo 2020 Olympics now less than a year away, and being the first one to feature skateboarding, freestyle BMX and 3x3 Basketball, an event like this was kind of expected to happen, and I glad it did. I'm even more glad I got to be there. However, my idea of urban sports was a little bit different. With skateboarding dropping out when World Urban Games was transferred from LA to the Hungarian capital of Budapest, the main events became BMX and 3x3 contests.
Maybe not the most obvious combination, but both being urban sports that rose from the streets, it did make sense. Adding parkour, inline and break dancing was also somewhat logical, but the real surprise came in the form of another three sports - laser run, flying disc freestyle and indoor rowing. No disrespect to anyone, but I just can't get any idea what those sports have to do with urban culture. On the other hand, I don't see how this event did any good for those sports themselves, as they failed to attract any real crowd over the weekend.
Unfortunately, we couldn't be there for the whole weekend, arriving late on Saturday, so we missed majority of the inline skating, and focused most of our attention on the BMX events. And it was worth every minute of it. From the qualification runs to the finals on Sunday, the most elite riders in the world showed why they have the reputation they do, dropping some of the most insane runs. But it was Australian Brandon Loupos who came on top with his mental second run in the finals. I don't remember I've ever seen a double backflip, cash roll, and flair to double whip in the same one minute run. Actually, I'm sure I didn't.
The close second place went to another Australian, Logan Martin, while the podium was completed by American wonderkid Justin Dowell. However, with Daniel Sandoval scoring 90 points, and finishing fourth, and Irek Rizaev and Nick Bruce both going above 88, this finals will definitely go down as one to remember. It is also worth mentioning that both Daniel Dhers and Marin Ranteš took hard slams, with Daniel's being particularly heavy, but fortunately, they are both OK and got back on their bikes to finish the contest.
Women category, on the other hand, brought much less suspense with Hannah Roberts absolutely dominating the scoreboard. She took the win with such ease, that she used her second run as a "victory lap," throwing a double tailwhip and called the run on the spot. Japanese rider Minato Oike, while the third and fourth places went to Columbian twins Liszurley and Queensaray Serna Villegas.
In the time between the BMX sessions, we used our time to explore the venue a bit and take a peek a the other events. The especially interesting was the art zone, inside the abandoned building, which featured a graffiti tone, a skateboard art exhibition, as well as a few skate or streetwear pop up stores. Again, the urban side of the event was spot-on, exploring different aspects of underground culture, trying to present it to the people outside of it, but still keeping its essence. Even the musical program headlined by Chase & Status and Talib Kweli was just right. It was just the combination of the events that was confusing.
We spent the rest of the spare time in the 3x3 Basketball arena where we got the chance to see semi-finals and finals in both, men and women category. Both finals featured French and Russian teams, with the first one picking up gold in the men, and silver in the women category. The next edition of the World Urban Games is already announced for 2021, and once again, it will be held in Budapest. This year, the event showed it's massive potential, and I firmly expect it to grow in the future. However, I'll say it once more - it may be wise to re-tink the disciplines, and go all-in on the urban and street culture next time.