They thought they’d seen and done in all at the Principality Stadium, but not a bit of it.
When it was first opened 20 years ago this month the staple diet was rugby and football.
It expanded into concerts, Speedway Grand Prix, Wales Rally GB, Rugby League, Monster Trucks, world championship boxing and even Power Cricket.
But in 12 months’ time the most iconic building in Wales will show just how far it has come, and just how relevant it still is as it moves into its third decade of operation, when it stages on 23/25 May, 2020 the Nitro World Games Wales.
THE LAUNCH WITH THE FLYING BIKES
“@principalitysta was built for action sports, it’s one of the few roofs we can’t hit!” @TravisPastrana
“It’s awesome… (with) no outside elements it’s the perfect venue, it’s going to be the best #NitroWorldGames ever!” @TheRWilly @NitroCircus pic.twitter.com/Ut6jKio8IM
— Principality Stadium (@principalitysta) June 12, 2019
Nothing could be further from one of the earliest sporting events hosted at the world renowned venue – the Home Nations Petanque Championship in 2000.
Instead of throwing weighted boules around, the main participants at the Nitro World Games, taking part in the Freestyle Motocross, will be riding 85-110kg motorbikes up ramps at 35mph, flying through the air at around 40ft and doing double somersaults before landing (safely!) on another ramp.
It really does take your breath away when you see it live – as Lord Dafydd Ellis-Thomas, the Welsh Government Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, among others, witnessed for himself at the launch as he stood in between the ramps and watched the bikers fly over him.
That is why the organisers are predicting two days of 50,000+ crowds for what will be the first staging of the growing, global event outside the USA.
We think our national rugby heroes have to go through some pretty amazing pain barriers to be the best they can be, but for Travis Pastrana, the action sports icon who fronts and is co-creator of the event, accidents are part of his business.
The 34-year-old from Annapolis, in Maryland, has broken more than 90 bones and survived 25 concussions on his way to becoming the most celebrated freestyle rider of all time.
One of the most successful athletes in the history of X Games, the annual extreme sports gathering where competitors try to outdo each other with their gravity-defying feats, his list of achievements includes winning eight rally and motocross titles.
A modern day Evil Kenevil, he performed a jaw-dropping back-flip into the Grand Canyon in 2002, base jumping to safety seconds before his bike met its fate.
Four years later he became the first person to complete a double back-flip on a dirt bike and the following year he topped the lot by jumping out of a plane over Arecibo, Puerto Rico, without a parachute.
The World Nitro Games will also feature FMX, BMX, Skateboard and Scooter disciplines. There will be 100+ of the biggest action sports stars from across the globe competing in an event massively increasing in popularity and participation.
Just how far some of these events have come is highlighted by the fact that BMX and Skate are now Olympic disciplines and will be part of the sporting landscape in Tokyo next year.
“It is all about passion and progression. We want the biggest possible ramps with the safest of landings,” said Pastrana.
“We realised about five years ago that we were doing bigger tricks in our own back yard than they were at the world championships. We wanted to showcase the best riders doing the biggest tricks, doing things that everyone had previously thought was impossible.
“We want to push the envelope in everything we do and one of the main reasons we are coming to Cardiff is because of the wonderful stadium.
“The Principality Stadium was built for Action Sports and it will be the biggest arena in which we have ever performed and the roof means we won’t have to battle against wind or rain.”
The event is a collaboration between Nitro Circus, the global sport and entertainment leaders, Live Nation, the world’s leading live entertainment company, Visit Wales and Principality Stadium.
The Wales Government played a huge role in helping to import many great sporting events to Wales, but this will be a first even for them.
Ryder Cup, Ashes Tests, the Olympics, Tour of Britain Cycling, the World Half-Marathon Championships, the FA Cup, Wales Rally GB, Rugby League World Cup and the Rugby World Cup have all got the stamp of the Major Events group on them, but the Nitro World Games shows they, along with the Principality Stadium and the WRU, are moving with the times.
The social media and YouTube generation are way ahead in their understanding of what these incredible athletes are capable of and it is their collective power that has convinced the Olympic movement to broaden their more traditional horizons.
“This event is going to attract a really different audience to our usual ones. It will be younger, more family-orientated and there will be lots of petrol heads,” said WRU chief executive, Martyn Phillips.
“It is a little daunting when you see what they are capable of doing up close. It is fantastic for us to be able to host a world first at the Principality Stadium next year when the Nitro World Games come out of the USA for the first time.
“What it shows is that we are still reaping the benefits of the decisions taken by our forefathers 20 years ago when they built this great stadium with a roof.
“It can’t have been an easy financial decision to take at the time, but it has meant the stadium is still at the forefront of major venues around the world.
“Nitro World Games will be the latest, and also one of the greatest, examples of both our global appeal and our adaptability as a multi-event facility.
“We are looking forward to turning Principality Stadium into the perfect host venue for an amazing celebration of action sports.”
For more information on the event go to nitroworldgames.com
Tickets are available from Friday, 14 June (10.00am BST)