Parkour is the official new discipline of gymnastics.
At least according to gymnastics.
Gymnastic’s national member organisations recently voted at a congress in Baku to ratify moves by their international federation, the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG), to incorporate parkour into the sport.
Gymnastics started making inroads into governing parkour in 2017, when it appointed a Parkour Committee and began establishing Parkour World Cup events. Now, after being ratified, parkour joins this list of gymnastic’s disciplines which includes artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, aerobic gymnastics, acrobatic gymnastics, trampolining and tumbling.
This has meet with strong opposition from the parkour community.
“This is the equivalent of a hostile takeover,” said Eugene Minogue, chief executive of Parkour Earth. “It has no validity whatsoever and we have proved they have acted illegally and breached various charters, including that of the IOC,” Minogue told insidethegames.
Parkour Earth formed in opposition to FIG as an international federation consisting of six national parkour associations.
Speaking to Radio NZ, New Zealand Parkour’s chief executive described the move as absolutely ludicrous. “There is no system in place that protects us. It seems absolutely ludicrous that anuyone [sic] could just decide that they are now in charge of you, but that’s exactly what they’ve just done at their congress.”
FIG’s efforts have triggered anger among much of the parkour community, with one media commentator describing FIG’s actions as showing a “blatant disregard, and ultimately disrespect, towards those who know far more about the sport than they do.” Many parkour practitioners have angrily taken to social media with the hashtag #WeAreNOTGymnastics.
Despite gymnastics and parkour being similar superficially and sharing common movements, the sports come from different origins. Parkour developed in the streets of France in the 1980s, while gymnastics can trace its origins back to ancient Greece and FIG has existed since 1881, making it the world’s oldest existing international sports organisation.
What has prompted this move to takeover parkour? Many point to the International Olympic Committee’s Agenda 2020 reform package, which effectively asked international federations to pursue more youth-orientated events. And as gymnastics faces declining participation rates and popularity, parkour participation is continually growing especially among youth and young males – an audience traditionally not overly interested in pursuing gymnastics. The Agenda 2020 left Olympic sports scrambling to develop more youth orientated formats for Olympic inclusion, and gymnastics has firmly set its sights on the young street activity.
Initially David Belle, credited as the founder of parkour, supported FIG, accepting the position as President of FIG’s Parkour Commission. But he has since resigned to pursue other professional commitments.
Four other members followed –
Ahmed Al-Breihi, Aleksandra Shevchenko, Estelle Piget and Kamil Tobiasz. In an open letter they cited concerns for the future of parkour and accused FIG of ignoring the views of the parkour communities and displaying a lack of transparency, “The implementation is trying to go fast with very little or no transparency, no involvement of the international parkour community or national communities”.
Under the leadership of Morinari Watanabe, FIG is steamrolling ahead.
“We must keep on developing gymnastics so that the sport retains its luster in the eyes of the next generation too,” Watanabe wrote.
Parkour, writes Mike Rowbottom at Insidethegames, “looks likely to follow the same route as other ‘young’ sports such as snowboarding and BMX riding, both of which have become features – and attractive features at that – of the Olympics, but are managed by the international bodies for skiing and cycling respectively.”