The X Games are an Olympics-style annual competition of so-called "extreme sports." These sports include skateboarding, BMX, inline skating and snowboarding, as well as a number of variations on each and many other events. The X Games were created by cable sports network ESPN in 1995 in response to the growing popularity of these extreme sports. While most of these sports started out as young people finding new and creative things to do on wheels and boards, the X Games provided a competitive venue in which athletes could be timed and judged to determine who was the best. Athletes receive gold, silver and bronze medals for first, second and third place, just like in the Olympics.
When the X Games began, there were only the summer games, which included many variations on the basic sports. Skateboarding has vert, in which athletes are judged on tricks pulled inside a half-pipe, and street, in which athletes are judged on tricks pulled in a manufactured "street" setting that includes hills, ramps and rails. BMX also has vert and street, as well as air, in which an athlete rides up a large ramp and does one or two tricks in the air upon which to be judged. There are also more obscure events like the street luge, in which athletes ride on their backs down a steep road course - and crashes are frequent.
The Winter X Games were created in 1997 and feature similar variations on skiing, snowboarding and other snow-related sports. The Winter X Games have never matched the popularity or attendance figures of the Summer X Games. However, perhaps inspired by the X Games, the Olympics began introducing extreme sports such as snowboarding in 1998. Among the more decorated and popular athletes in X Games history are skateboarders Tony Hawk, Bob Burnquist, Bucky Lasek and Andy MacDonald; BMX riders Dave Mirra, Mat Hoffman and Jay Miron; motocross riders Travis Pastrana and Brian Deegan; and snowboarders Todd Richards and Barrett Christy.