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March 25, 2013

Burmese Skateboarders Lobby for Official Recognition

by VOA News

A small community of skateboarders in Rangoon, who lost their skate park four years ago, has made a film to try to promote their dream of building a replacement. The creative effort to get skateboarding recognized as an official sport in Burma.

The Speed Ring Skate Club, comprise of 20 young Burmese with a passion for skateboarding in a country where skateboards are rare.

The skaters first learned their tricks at this park. But four years ago it was destroyed, for reasons that are not entirely clear. Now, these skaters have a choice of perfecting their skills on poorly paved and crowded streets or making a five hour journey to the remote capital, Naypyitaw, where Japanese donors built a skate park hundreds of kilometers from the nearest skaters.

Akar Bo says the distance means he rarely visits. "We need a good place to skateboard. They should have built this in Rangoon," he added.

The group has taken matters into their own hands, making a film about their cause that they hope will win over officials - and draw more aspiring skaters to their ranks.  

Filmmaker Ali Drummond, a skateboarder from Britain who was saddened by the loss of the Rangoon skate park, says the film has helped them believe their goal is achievable.

"This is Myanmar [Burma].  No one is going to sponsor us as skateboarders. And, in the past, no one has shown any interest in them.  In fact, they'd actually just shown hostility toward them as a group of people," Drummond said. "So they had no belief in themselves that anyone was going to help them from Myanmar. So I think this film essentially changed that to a certain extent."

To get approval to build a new skate park, the skaters must become an officially recognized sporting federation by the sports ministry.

Former sports ministry director general Aung Din is already a supporter of their cause. "Of course skateboarding needs a park, so they can exercise and participate and become in fellowship and meet each other.  But, first of all we need the blessing from the sports ministry so they can help us out," explained Aung Din.

The skaters hope to win permission for at least a temporary park when Burma hosts the Southeast Asian Games in December. There, the exposure could help persuade officials and introduce a new generation of Burmese to the sport.