Controversy Over New Gymnastics-based Obstacle Sport as Key Partner Pulls Out

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A key supporter of the International Gymnastics Federation’s (FIG) intent to develop a new obstacle racing sport based on parkour has pulled out, as revelations surface regarding FIG’s goals.

In a public statement posted online today, APEX School of Movement announced they’ve cancelled partnership with the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG), stating “FIG’s interests do not coincide with what we perceive to be a step forward for the international parkour community.”

Earlier this month FIG announced plans to create a new gymnastics discipline based on obstacle course competitions. The discipline will consist of two formats:

  1. Obstacle Course Sprint – a short-form obstacle race against-the-clock
  2. Obstacle Course Freestyle – style based performances that will be judged

See Obstacle Racers NZ’s previous article on what the Obstacle Course Sprint format would involve.

APEX have been successfully running a ‘Time Trial’ format of competition based on parkour that was to be adapted into the FIG’s Obstacle Course Sprint format, with the first competition to be held in France later this month as part of the Festival International des Sports Extrêmes World Series. It was understood that a member of the IOC Olympic Programme Commission would be in attendance to see how the competition performed as a potential inclusion for future Olympic Games. However today APEX issued an apology to the parkour community and formally withdraw support from FIG, citing that promises by FIG regarding the treatment of parkour were not being honoured.

Earlier this week the New Zealand Parkour Association issued an open letter criticising FIG for encroachment and misappropriation of parkour. “As the national representative of the parkour community within New Zealand it is our duty to look after the rights and interests of our practitioners, ensuring that our sport is neither misappropriated and/or encroached upon”. The Australian Parkour Association soon after issued their own open letter objecting to FIG’s actions. Other national bodies have also issued letters, including Parkour UK and the Fédération de Parkour (France), along with the international body Fédération Internationale des Arts Du Déplacement (FIADD) stating “FIADD and its Member Organisations stand opposed to FIG’s attempt to hijack the discipline of parkour and fully supports Parkour UK’s letter of condemnation.”

Parkour currently has no clear international governance as a sport. At least three organisations are understood to be looking at becoming the international governing body of parkour: The Mouvement, FIADD and the World Freerunning and Parkour Federation. “It is clear that if we are to protect the authenticity and sovereignty of parkour,” APEX said in their statement, “the international parkour community must establish a truly democratic, neutral, and authentic international federation / governing body [separate from FIG].”

The Mouvement have been accused of a lack of transparency, including failing to disclose who its executives are and not informing current members of any plans to enter a partnership with the FIG. In the statement released by APEX today they revealed new allegations that they were “exposed to information outlining the plan to dissolve The Mouvement, having the former president of The Mouvement sit on the executive committee of FIG.”

FIG has remained largely silent since coming under criticism from the parkour community. However in a recent interview FIG’s secretary general André Gueisbuhler stated, “At the moment [parkour practitioners] are not organized. Their basic spirit is to be free, not to be organized. Yet they want to have competitions. But if they want to do competitions, obviously they need minimum rules and environment to make attractive competitions. I’m sure the FIG is the international federation most qualified to further develop parkour.”

Obstacle Racers NZ contacted Obstacle Course Racing New Zealand for comment, who replied with, “NZ Parkour has taken a clear stance on the issue regarding FIG. With obstacle sports – such as obstacle course racing, parkour and ninja warrior – rising in popularity around the world and the IOC showing a clear interest in developing obstacle sports for future Olympic inclusion, the need for good governance is now required.”

Read more on Gymnastic’s new obstacle sport:

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