When the X Games were born back in 1995, they were met with skepticism. Sure, skaters and young kids took an interest, but for the hard core sports fan these new extreme action sports looked to be nothing more than a passing fancy. Fast forward to today and the X Games are stronger than ever.
Ramona Bruland, host of the X Games points to the participants as the reason for the growth of the sports. “These kids and athletes are superstars,” Bruland said. “What they do is superhuman, essentially.”
One look at some of the amazing flips and tricks X Gamers pull off and you’ll probably agree with Bruland.
This week X Games Los Angeles gets underway, the sixth and final stop for 2013 for an event that has taken its show on the road. Way down the road and over the ocean in fact. The X Games are now international. The event went from a long shot idea in New England to a popular global product that continues to show progression by leaps and bounds.
“It’s gone from a niche culture to a broader appeal,” Bruland told Breitbart Sports. “The core original supporters are still there but we’ve added many more fans. Even my mom loves it.” It must run in the family because Bruland loves it too.
Bruland, who was raised in Adelaide, South Australia is a self described “outdoors girl.” She used to be a competitive snowboarder herself and she still looks for the thrill of extreme sports, and not just when she is covering them. Now living in Colorado, Bruland has her own personal cache of thrill machines. “I have mountain bikes, road bikes, and dirt bikes,” said Bruland. “I ski and snowboard; I snowmobile. You name it. I have so many toys in my garage, I never know which one to pull out on a given day.”
Despite doing a tremendous job as the X Games host, Bruland did not go to school for journalism. She studied Outdoor Education and Wilderness Survival. “I like to play in the woods and I like to have fun,” Bruland said. “It’s all about getting that adrenaline rush and seeing how far you can push it.”
As far as the big doings in L.A. this week, there is plenty to keep an eye on. A couple of athletes have won gold in every event this year, so they’ll be trying to make it four straight. Some of the anticipated events include Moto X Racing and Rallycross,
“There’ll be drifting figure eights and doing turns around an obstacle course,” Bruland said. “It’s going to be sick.”
The danger for X Games athletes is very real. Anyone who didn’t realize that got a wake up call earlier this year when tragedy struck. Caleb Moore died after his 450-pound sled rolled over him after a back flip gone awry.
“People definitely tune in for the danger element,” Bruland contends. “It’s amazing how big and how huge these athletes go and often it’s a calculated risk.” According to Bruland though, X Games officials takes all precautions to make things as safe as possible. Nothing of course is a certainty. “Accidents happen in skiing in general,” Bruland said. “There are dozens of deaths each year on slopes and they’re often on beginners courses. This was an unfortunate accident.”
While the X Games is indeed a worldwide event today, Americans still dominate the competition. “At least 40 percent, sometimes 50 percent are from the United States,” Bruland estimated. That said, it is truly an international endeavor. X Games is broadcast in over 180 countries in dozens of different languages.
Bruland isn’t privy to hard numbers when it comes to the economic impact of the X Games but judging by its longevity and ability to attract sponsors it’s safe to say things are going pretty well in that department. “They’ve expanded it and it’s growing so that should tell us something,” Bruland said.
Many old school sports fans will never get into the X Games, but there is no denying it has found its place in the world of sports. Many of the X Games events are now Olympic disciplines and more are being added in 2014.
“We’ve not only built these athletes but we’ve built the events to be world class,” Bruland said. “They’re so good at what they do. They go so big, it’s crazy. It’s definitely entertainment, but its also athleticism that keeps people tuning in.”
An engaging, talented host doesn’t hurt either.
Photo courtesy Ramona Bruland Facebook Page.