X Games expands to three new host cities in Spain, Brazil, Germany

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After a year-long Olympic-style bid process, ESPN today announced an “X-pansion” that will bring the X Games to new sites in Barcelona, Spain; Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil and Munich, Germany. The trio joins Aspen, Los Angeles and Tignes, France in hosting an X Games event beginning in 2013.

With nearly two decades of impassioned commitment to the X Games franchise, ESPN’s announcement marks the next logical step in transforming the X Games from an action sports competition brand into an action sports lifestyle brand that will highlight global growth, new locations and enhanced cultural and digital elements.

Last May, ESPN launched a formal bid process to add three events to the yearly X Games calendar, beginning in 2013. In January, nine finalists were announced.

Local organizing committees from the new host locations will collaborate with ESPN for the next three years to bring the X Games to their cities, launching an annual, six-event X Games calendar — four summer events and two winter. The X Games events will spotlight the world’s best action sports athletes — in BMX, Skateboard, Moto X, and Rally Car Racing at the X Games; and Skiing, Snowboard and Snowmobile at the X Games winter event — against the backdrop of the host city and country.

Each X Games event will take on its own distinguishing characteristics that will set it apart from the others, including the introduction of new sports and cultural elements drawn from the host cities themselves.

Front Row caught up with Scott Guglielmino, ESPN senior vice president, Programming and Global X, to shed some light on what this global expansion is all about.

Why were these cities chosen as locations for the new X Games events?
Barcelona, Munich and Foz Do Iguacu were chosen as host cities based on the overall quality of their bids as well the quality of the LOC/event partners. Europe and Brazil are very important regions for ESPN, and these three cities will each bring a very unique flavor to the X Games. Each event will have distinguishing characteristics. Imagine the Big Air ramp in a lake in the middle of the Munich Olympic Park with beer gardens off to the side, or a vert ramp in front of the Foz do Iguacu falls, which are magnificent and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world.

What was involved in the Bid Process? How did cities place and compete for a chance to hold the next X Games?
We announced our global expansion plans one year ago and created a comprehensive bid manual and bid process for interested entities to complete. We initially received 70 Letters of Interest from around the globe and ultimately qualified more than 40 potential bidders from 21 countries. We hosted the qualified bidders in LA at the X Games and held a multi-day bid workshop to educate them on our event and expectations. We were in regular contact with all of the bidders through the next several months and made visits to each city as they worked to complete their bid files. We received all of the bids on January 2 and then had a large cross-departmental team involved in the evaluation process. We narrowed the list down to nine finalists at that time and then spent the spring making site visits and allowing the bidders to refine their bids for a final submission. It was really an incredible process, and we appreciate the efforts and contributions of the many people around the company who were involved.

Can we expect to see the same top-tier athletes and level of progression we are accustomed to at each of the new X Games events?
Yes, we will continue to have the best action sports athletes in the world competing in the X Games events, and we have received very positive feedback from many of the top athletes who are excited about our expansion. Progression will always be at the core of the X Games, and we believe that this global expansion and the many plans that we have to enhance the events with new cultural elements will help transform the X Games from an action sports event to a lifestyle brand that is ultimately a global celebration for contemporary youth.

Now with a formal bidding process and some crossover sports, how similar are the X Games to the Olympic Games? How different are the X Games from the Olympics?
While we share some sports and athletes with our winter events, we are very different events and brands in my opinion. The X Games are all about youth and progression. We are obviously focused on action sports which happen to have global appeal. I think it’s terrific that the Olympics have recognized the popularity and legitimacy of events like ski half-pipe/SuperPipe which will finally be added to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia in 2014. We hope to continue to identify and develop sports and athletes that the Olympics can incorporate. That’s not meant to sound arrogant in any way. We are just more nimble and committed to the progression of action sports.

Will there be an opportunity for new cities to bid on the X Games?
Yes. The new locations will each host the X Games for three years, and then we expect to utilize another bid process to determine where we go next. Given the lead-times required, we will begin planning that process pretty quickly.