Just before midnight, a man climbs onto a ledge on the 21st floor of a building in southwest Paris and leaps off. Seconds later he opens his parachute before landing safely — all part of the thrill of base jumping.
Unlike sky divers who leap from an aircraft, BASE jumpers take off from a fixed point, usually a cliff or a bridge.
However, daredevils in cities around the world are taking the sport to new high spots. In Paris, the Eiffel Tower, Montparnasse Tower and skyscrapers in the business district La Defense have become unlikely venues — even though such stunts are strictly illegal in urban settings.
“The city at night is splendid. To be perched on a building without anyone’s knowledge, while knowing that you’re going to throw yourself off and see a series of windows, that’s even better,” said David Laffargue, who has a jump off a 47-floor La Defense building to his name.
Any site above 60m is a potential jumping-off point, said a base jumper who gave his name only as Rodolphe, and who has logged 1,200 urban and natural jumps for a total of about 15 hours spent in the air.
However, he noted that “it should not be windy and the road below should be clear of objects like lamp posts.”
Laffargue said such obstacles make urban jumps all the more special.
“From a technical point of view, such jumps are very demanding — they are low jumps, the landing zones are small and dotted with obstacles like streetlamps, power lines and cars, and buildings make air currents unstable,” he said.
From a psychological point of view, urban jumps are more stressful, not least because urban base jumping is illegal.
“So you have to do it quickly,” Laffargue said, adding: “A base jump of any kind requires thorough preparations, but an urban jump requires preparations down to the millimeter.”
A base jump is defined as a leap off a fixed high point — the name being an acronym for Building, Antenna, Span (such as bridges) and Earth (natural settings).
However, such stunts are banned in most cities for public safety reasons, and regulators have clamped down even at some natural sites — such as at nature reserves in the US.
Videos on YouTube document these city feats, which usually happen after nightfall, with the jumpers fleeing upon touching down to avoid being caught by police.
A woman who witnessed the jump in southwest Paris said: “There were three of them. Once they reached the ground, they folded their parachutes very quickly, climbed into a car and drove off rapidly.”
Three men were arrested following a base jump in September last year from the top of the nearly completed One World Trade Center in New York and charged with reckless endangerment.
On the other hand, just last week authorities in Dubai condoned a record-breaking jump off a special platform atop the 829.8m Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building — by Frenchmen Fred Fugen and Vince Reffet.
Yet it is not only law enforcers who are exasperated by such stunts in the city; others in the base jumping community are also opposed, complaining that they give a bad name to the sport and fuel the stereotype of irresponsible thrill seekers.
Even in a natural setting, base jumping carries high risks.
In Switzerland’s Lauterbrunnen village, which is a magnet for base jumpers because of its enormous rock walls, five people were killed last year alone practicing the sport.
Some plunge to their deaths as parachutes fail to open, others slam against the rock walls or land awkwardly on trees.
A Norwegian study published in 2007 concluded that base jumping is between five and eight times more likely than skydiving to result in injury or death.
However, nothing attracts the spotlight like a fatal jump off a tourist attraction in a major city.
In 2005, a 31-year-old Norwegian fell to his death in a base jump from the Eiffel Tower.
“It’s not the image that we want to give to our sport,” said Roch Malnuit, who heads the French Base Jump Association.
“Those who jump in town do it mostly because they live there. But I can assure you that 90 percent of the jumpers prefer cliffs,” he said.
Some are so exasperated they have coined the word “paralpinism” to refer to base jumping that is practiced only in natural settings.
“Some people just jump so they can get it on a video on YouTube,” said Jean-Philippe Gady, who heads the Paralpinism Association.
Others like alpinist Erich Beaud — one of France’s pioneering base jumpers — say new technologies like hands-free GoPro cameras that athletes can use to film their exploits encourage greater risk-taking.
“Today, many people who know nothing want to buy equipment. But when some make a mess of things, it penalizes the entire community,” Malnuit said.
Others simply feel it is more enjoyable to jump without the stress of having to evade arrest.
Swiss athlete Geraldine Fasnacht said: “I have jumped illegally from a building, but frankly, I hated the stress of doing that. I prefer to glide in the mountains from beautiful cliffs, without any fear of ridiculous reprisals from police for enjoying myself.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday said that he had called in the “third umpire” as he announced that recreational cricket would be allowed to resume next weekend. In a radio interview earlier on Friday, Johnson angered thousands of club cricketers by saying that the amateur game was still not safe to play amid the COVID-19 pandemic because of issues surrounding communal teas and dressing rooms. “It’s the teas, it’s the changing rooms and so on and so forth. There are other factors involved that generate proximity which you might not get in a game of tennis,” he said. Johnson had already
Hong Kong media reported that police briefly detained a man in a Liverpool team jersey who shouted “long live Liverpool” during anti-government protests on Wednesday, over suspicion that he was inciting independence. In-Media reported that the man was across the street from police officers who were conducting stop-and-searches on a group of protesters, when he shouted: “Long live Liverpool.” Others reportedly cheered and joined in the chant, before officers detained him. The man told In-Media that police had accused him of inciting Hong Kong independence, which now is a punishable crime. He said that he has been a fan of the English soccer
Indian police are investigating an alleged betting scandal in which a sham cricket tournament was held in an Indian village and passed off as a Twenty20 contest played in Sri Lanka. Players portrayed as Sri Lankan cricketers played two matches on Monday last week that were broadcast with live commentary on YouTube, media reports said, along with ball-by-ball coverage on top Indian sports Web sites. The organizers hung Sri Lankan advertisements at the ground for added authenticity and put up tents to block the view from outside the remote rural venue, set in farmland next to a busy highway. Police said that they
Raptors guard Fred VanVleet is already in Florida with the rest of his Toronto teammates, and he knows the time to take a stand and counter the NBA plan to restart the season has passed, but his opinion on the matter has not changed. “It sucks,” VanVleet said on Monday in a videoconference of his choice to return to the court during the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter campaign. “It’s terrible timing, but that’s been 2020 for us. We all know the right thing to do is to not play, to take a stand. Morally, yes, that makes sense, but