Parkour has just been recognised as a sport by the UK sports council. For the development of this sport, also known as freerunning, this is good news as it now allows it to attract government grants and National Lottery funding.
Often perceived as being a high-risk activity in an urban environment, it was interesting listening to Sébastien Foucan in a recent radio interview. He’s a spokesperson for the sport but probably more recognised as the stunt man who did the audacious roof top chase in the James Bond film “Casino Royale”. He eloquently talked about it not being restricted to a “built environment” (i.e. urban) but about being a non-competitive discipline in public spaces. It was revealing and inspiring to hear him describe the need to respect the environment and that you could do the sport while “staying on the ground”. In response to the view that it wasn’t a sport, Sébastien stated they could measure and assess participants, as there were defined techniques and levels of progression. Adding that it was similar to gymnastics, you needed to respect the levels and not take risks by attempting something well outside your progression. I’m making him sound a bit dull, on radio he was enthusiastic and positive.
Why bother? I think it might be the simple attraction of being a big kid again, enjoying the freedom of running around outside, and the simple joys that came from doing things just because you could, like climbing trees and the fun of jumping off low walls and park benches, now being carried through to a bigger playground. Here’s an inspiring free running story.
There could be a downside, the trouble with being a recognised activity is that it can then become too elitist and competitive. While not a recognised “sport”, Urban Exploration, or Urbex seems to have splintered into various factions, which does seem to be more prone to macho posturing, especially for social media. Mind you both Parkour and Urbex would look pretty spectacular as an Olympic Sport and far more an intrinsic challenge then many of the soi-disant Olympic Sports!