Making History With the Nitro World Games
With the announcement of the Nitro World Games, a new action sports competition that will feature the best athletes competing in the most popular disciplines, Nitro Circus Live creator Mike Porra is seeing the realization of an idea he’s spent years cultivating. He and Travis Pastrana have created a competition to reinvigorate the world of action sports — a one-night televised event where seven gold medals will be awarded in FMX, BMX, skateboard, inline, and scooter during a single three-hour broadcast with live scoring and absolutely no filler moments. In a sense, it’s like the Action Sports Olympics. (Check out more details about the show here.)
We caught up with Mike at Nitro’s San Clemente, California, headquarters and asked him to talk about the inspiration behind the Nitro World Games. “We believe we need to contribute back to the sport,” he says. He’s gone on the record before as being disappointed in the current state of action sports competitions. Here’s an interview he did with ESPN in 2011 in which he was asked the question. Back then, he said, “I’ve got some very clear thoughts of how I would like to see the competition run.” Four and a half years later, he’s finally able to make those thoughts a reality.
“At times, you’ve got to really throw caution to the wind and really think outside the square as to how this can work, because what we’ve got here is a sport that is incredibly spectacular.” He compares action sports to certain Olympic sports that — how can we say this nicely? — sports that have a whole lot less backflipping dirtbikes, yet people watch them in droves every four years. And, he points out, adding action sports was huge for the Winter Olympics. So imagine using a similar format that is made up entirely of the most popular action sports.
One of the primary goals was to make the competition more accessible to casual viewers and newer fans who don’t yet have the full context of each sport. “Everyone who’s been to a Nitro show knows, whether you’re a grandparent or a 5-year-old kid, you come out of there going, ‘Oh my god, that was as fun a night as ever I’ve had in my life.’ So we need to take that element of it and put it into … a competition format so that people then get that same level of enjoyment out of it,” Mike says. “It will open up the world to this incredible sport.”
They took a look at how events are scored and decided it needs to be much more straightforward, with the primary emphasis on the difficulty level and execution of each trick. And with live scoring, viewers will be able to see at every moment exactly how many points an athlete needs to take the lead — no more waiting until the end of a run and finding out after it’s all over. This type of approach will keep the momentum going so that the live telecast focuses more on what audiences are there to see — the best athletes performing the biggest tricks. It will also deliver that without a lot of extra talking and filler, and audiences will see the results in real time, followed immediately by the winners being crowned. “It’s an amazing three hours because you’ve just seen seven gold medals happen,” Mike says.
Mike and Travis next focused on the formats for the individual events, emphasizing variety and progression. For example, these days most FMX competitions are all about backflip combinations. And that’s not surprising, since those are the biggest tricks being consistently performed in the sport. But there’s so much more to FMX. And what starts to happen is audiences become numb to backflips, because it’s all they see. Perhaps more importantly, a competition with such a narrow focus doesn’t necessarily crown the best all-around FMX athlete. With the Nitro World Games, the formats will ensure that audiences are seeing the broadest range of existing tricks and a lot of brand-new stuff too. “The actual formats are much more exciting — way way way way less repetitive.”
Mike says: “We have a responsibility to make it such an incredible event that we grow the whole of the sport, and all of the sudden there are kids around the world saying, ‘Yeah, I want to be in that one day.'” And that’s not an exaggeration — they’ll actually be able to. The Nitro World Games will feature open qualifying, meaning if you’re good enough you can make it into the medal events and compete against the best. “Everyone in the world has the opportunity to make the games,” he says.
Mike is clearly passionate about positioning the Nitro World Games in a way that makes action sports even more accessible to new audiences globally: “It’s almost like taking this incredible secret and showing it to the world.” But the way they’ve designed the formats and plans for the telecast will also add a new level to the credibility of the sport, he says. In short, they’ve designed something truly innovative for new fans and hardcore existing fans to all rally around simultaneously, which in itself is quite a feat. The fact that his collaborator on this quest is Travis Pastrana doesn’t hurt either. “Travis has got a head full of amazing ideas when it comes particularly to real progression — big, huge new things,” he says.
Come see the Games for yourself in Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s all going down at the Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday, July 16, 2016, and tickets are on sale now!
The Nitro World Games will be broadcast live in the U.S. at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. All coverage shown on NBC will also be streamed on NBC Sports Live Extra, NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, tablets and connected TV’s. Outside of the U.S., NBC will distribute the Nitro World Games on leading networks globally via tape delay.