Oct 19th, 2023, 01:00 PM

Kick-Flipping the Olympic Script

By Owen Montheard, Justin Kauppi and Francesca DeNisco
Cosanostra skaters in 2021. (Image Credit: Emma Huggins)
As skateboarding rolls into the mainstream, what do the Games mean for veterans of the sport?

Chelles may not be an obvious destination for most of us dwelling in Paris, but veteran skateboarders have long thought otherwise. Nestled in these leafy suburbs is Cosanostra skatepark, the once go-to spot for seasoned skaters wanting to practice a counter-culture sport. Then came the 2020 Tokyo Olympics which saw skateboarding introduced as an official sport for the first time, shaking up this alternative scene and bringing it into the mainstream forever.

We spoke with Rafa Thierry, a Cosanostra regular, to get his thoughts on skateboarding at the Games. "I think that it's a good thing that our sport is being broadcast on the big screen," he said, "it makes people more educated about what skateboarding really is and the culture behind it." Interest in the sport boomed after the 2020 Games - according to a 2021 article, the number of people participating in skateboarding worldwide increased by 30% in the year following the Tokyo Olympics. 

Skaters in action at Cosanostra. (Image Credit: Justin Kauppi).

Cosanostra itself has quickly evolved into one of the most popular parks in the Paris metropolitan area. When asked if he noticed a significant increase in the number of people skating here, Thierry said, "Yes, definitely." He knows first-hand that gaining exposure is a double-edged sword for his beloved sport and voiced some frustration about the growth in skateboarding’s popularity bringing new, less experienced skaters into the fold.  "I am usually very patient with beginners because we were all there at one point, but when half of the park is filled with people who don't know proper park etiquette or what they are supposed to do, it gets a bit frustrating," he added. 

Surveying the park, it is easy to understand why Cosanostra is so popular. The park’s features made it the perfect venue to host the Vans Park Series in 2019. As you enter through the outdoor parking lot, the surroundings quickly transition into an expansive warehouse space; each level with distinct skateboarding infrastructures that enable skaters to perform any number of tricks and stunts. Its designer, Christian Hosoi, incorporated both indoor and outdoor versatility into the park's architecture, and the overall layout mirrors that of a staircase due to its prime hill-top location. 

Image Credit: Emma Huggins

As Paris gears up to host the Olympics next,  Cosanostra, while not an official competition venue, will likely be affected by the 2024 games. The reputation and popularity of the park give locals reasons to believe that there will be skateboard enthusiasts from around the world coming to check out Cosanostra, on the door-step of the Olympic action. While there is hope that more skate parks will open as the sport increases in popularity, accommodating the rise in skateboarders will be an unavoidable challenge for this previously underground community. 

Only time will tell what the Paris Olympics has in store for Cosanostra and its loyal skaters. Thierry, among his skating peers, is apprehensive about what the Games will mean for his weekend trips to Cosanostra. When asked if he was worried about Paris 2024, he said, "A little bit. I try not to make up my mind too quickly about what may or may not happen. I assume that there will be another increase after the Games happen. What worries me most is what might happen during the Olympics; Will a bunch of foreigners come to our skate park? Not to say that I wouldn't enjoy that, but it is going to be a long few months before I can enjoy the park if there is no room to skate."