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The Warsaw Voice » Society » April 16, 2008
Sports & leisure
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Why Skateboarders Love This Square
April 16, 2008   
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Trzech Krzyży Square is a Warsaw landmark and a must-see for all tourists. At its southern tip, the square boasts the monument of Wincenty Witos, one of the founders and key member of the pre-war Polish Peasants' Party. Right under his nose is a spot that has become a favorite haunt of the city's skateboarders.

The first skateboarders appeared in Poland in the 1970s. But it was only in 1989, the year communism ended, that the sport properly took off, with greater access to good equipment.

The first skateboarders had a handful of favorite spots to practice in Warsaw. These included the area near Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Piłsudskiego Square, and the square opposite the former headquarters of the Central Committee of the Polish Communist Party at the intersection of Jerozolimskie Avenue and Nowy ¦wiat Street, now the Banking and Financial Center.

The authorities were quick to notice the increasingly popular phenomenon and banned skateboards from anywhere near these landmarks. They followed the ban by despatching more police and city patrol officers to watch over the sites. Nowadays, skateboarders steer clear of these areas. The Witos monument is their last bastion.

What's so special about this monument? To a layman it is nothing out of the ordinary but skaters in the know love the marble steps and the low walls surrounding the monument, which make for a perfect training ground to practice almost every trick there is. This is where future champions took their first steps. That's why the place has become legendary, drawing aficionados from across Poland to strut their stuff under Witos's statue.

Adding a little spice to their hobby, skateboarding on the square is illegal. The police chase skateboarders away regularly, organizing crackdowns every once in a while. This does not seem to discourage the skateboarders too much as they always seem to come back for more.

Nowadays things have improved for Warsaw's skateboarders. Indoor skate parks have been set up, where they can practice irrespective of the weather. Also, though still scarce, special squares where skateboarders can practice have been built across the capital. Even if the city administration occasionally makes a blunder by paving the sites with brick.

There are those who say, however, that it would be a shame if skateboarders allowed themselves to be confined to the officially assigned skate parks and disappeared entirely from city spaces.

Magdalena Błaszczyk
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