Big beats, back spins and battles

Breaking is like no other sport at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games. B-Boys and B-Girls will go head to head in thrilling contests with a vibrant party atmosphere

Picture by 2015 Getty Images

Breaking is sure to be one of the talking points of Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games: it is among the most radical of the new disciplines to be added to the programme.

Originally developed on the streets of New York in the 1970s, B-Boys and B-Girls – as performers call themselves, rather than ‘breakdancers’ – were one of the core parts of the burgeoning hip-hop culture, alongside rappers, DJs and graffiti artists. Forty years later, it is now a genuine sporting event, codified and administered by the World Dance Sport Federation – all the while retaining its street edge and artistic credibility. 


“This is a piece of history for our scene, becoming part of the Youth Olympics,” B-Girl Emma Misak (CAN) said. “It’s very exciting and a bit crazy. “What I love about breaking is expressing myself. In breaking, in a battle, you are free. I don’t think about the moves that I’m going to use too much, it just comes to me.”

What should viewers expect? Funky beats, fast footwork, back spins and some gravity-defying moves. There is a lot of fun jargon – think windmills, jackhammers, freezes – and tons of attitude, although off the dance floor the mood is one of mutual admiration and respect.

“When you battle, you battle, but it is a very friendly scene,” Misak said. “It’s great to have competition, but the spirit and friendliness makes breaking really special.”


Breaking was added to the YOG programme as part of the IOC’s Agenda 2020, which aims to promote more youth-orientated sport and a younger audience. There will be three different events at Buenos Aires 2018: B-Girls, B-Boys and Mixed Team. Each individual event will have 12 athletes, while the Mixed Team event will include 12 teams.

Athletes progress towards the medals by ‘battling’ – the kind of face-to-face dance-off that has been popularised in music videos by hip-hop acts. The tunes are loud, funky, and never quite the same, with the resident DJs keeping things interesting with scratches and mixes.

In the preliminary phase, each athlete or team competes in three battles. Opponents are determined based on seeding. Each battle has two rounds, with the lower-seeded athlete performing first. Five judges oversee proceedings. The system produces a vote for each breaker (red or blue), meaning possible scores of 5-0, 4-1 or 3-2.

Athletes and teams are ranked by number of rounds won, then by the total number of judges’ votes received, and finally by their pre-competition rank. At the end of the preliminary phase, the top eight ranked athletes or teams progress to the quarterfinals. At the knockout stage, battles consist of four rounds, plus an additional round if they are tied. Losers are ranked five to eight, while the rest progress to the semifinals. From there, losers contest the bronze medal match, while the winners compete for gold.