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What Highly Creative Sport Will Debut at the 2024 Paris Olympics?

Updated May 16, 2024
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Every new edition of the Olympics comes with its share of developments, rule changes, and, frequently, controversies. The addition or removal of certain sports and events tends to attract a lot of attention, and this year’s Summer Games in Paris are no exception. Skateboarding (park and street), surfing, and sport climbing will all return, having successfully debuted at the last Olympics in Tokyo. On the other hand, karate, baseball, and softball will be absent (though the latter two will return for Los Angeles 2028).

Breaking, the more acceptable way to refer to breakdancing, will debut at the 2024 Games as the first dance sport ever included in the Olympics, though some have already compared its combination of artistry and athleticism to the longstanding Olympic disciplines of figure skating and gymnastics. Yet unlike events in which athletes prepare and practice a set routine, the b-boys and b-girls of Paris 2024 will improvise their moves in solo battles, soundtracked by a live DJ’s beats. They will be judged on six criteria: technique, performativity, musicality, creativity, personality, and variety.

At the Paris Games, 32 athletes (16 women and 16 men) will take part in the competition, held at the Place de la Concorde. Team USA has four spots for the nation’s top breakers. Two of those places have already been bestowed on breaking stars Sunny Choi and Victor Montalvo.

Combining elements of gymnastics and martial arts with a focus on creativity and musicality, breakdancing developed alongside hip-hop music in the early days of the genre in New York City, at block parties presided over by pioneering DJs such as Kool Herc. The term refers to the instrumental breaks in songs that were extended to allow people to dance, which eventually led to more formal dance-offs.

Many have praised the addition of breaking as a way to inspire younger viewers to get interested in the Olympics, as well as to provide the sport with a huge global platform. However, the move has also attracted its fair share of critics. Some have argued that breaking is more of an art than a sport and are skeptical of the inclusion of more events that need to be judged rather than objectively timed or scored. The International Olympic Committee's decision to add breaking has also galled those who have unsuccessfully campaigned to get more traditional events like squash included.

Breaking new ground:

  • More than a million people viewed the breakdance competition at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires in 2018, which helped pave the way for the IOC’s decision to include it in 2024.

  • Breaking is considered one of the four pillars of hip-hop culture, along with DJing, rapping, and graffiti art. Breaking proponents praise its ability to unite communities and bring joy to both participants and onlookers through creative expression.

  • Breaking became incredibly popular in the mid-1980s before losing steam. In recent years, breaking has seen a resurgence, largely in the form of competitions.
  • WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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