Cliff diving is gaining appreciation worldwide, and even beats classic diving in terms of popularity. However, the question of whether it has to be included in the Olympic program is raising a lot of controversy.
It is almost 3,000 years since the first Olympics were held in Athens, although the spirit of the Games has hardly changed since then – the greatest examples of physical ability and the extremes to which athletes can perform.
Diving is a modern Olympic event, which currently includes competitions on one, three and 10-meter platforms.
However, it has a much more extreme version, which is cliff diving. It produces not only stunning, but also technically advanced, dives from 27-metre platforms.
And, specialists argue the sporting federations should rate is as worthy of Olympic recognition.
“There’s a lot of talk with FINA, because they are trying to standardize it. There are already rules, qualifications, and a lot of countries are participating in cliff diving now. So it’s very hopeful to become an Olympic event,” Greg Louganis, four-time Olympic diving champion, said.
“It’s the same as 10-meter diving, just higher. And the crowd loves a sport like this and so I think it’s got what it takes,” Gary Hunt, two-time cliff diving World Series winner, commented.
“I’m sure there are many places, all over the globe, that could host cliff diving events. While there are a lot of standards to be met in Olympic diving, cliff diving needs almost nothing in terms of infrastructure. All you need is water, a cliff, and a platform on the cliff. It’s as simple as that,” Elena Vaytsekhovskaya, 1976 Olympic diving champion, said.
However, cliff diving can be seen from another angle. Russian daredevil Valery Rozov is one of the world’s most famous base jumpers, having made headlines all over the world performing amazing free-fall stunts in a specially-designed wing-suit.
“I wouldn’t call it a sport in the true sense of the word. The cliff diving community is currently a bit too small. There aren’t many people involved in it, so far. It’s definitely a kind of extreme activity that has its specific risks, and I like it very much. I used to do acrobatics some time ago – I just learned some of the basics, so I realize what it takes to control your body the way cliff divers do. It has so much in common with base jumping, sky diving – it takes a lot of daring,” he said.
However, Russia would gain a lot from cliff diving becoming an Olympic sport.
The country’s star performer, Artyom Silchenko, has just finished second at this year’s World Series and managed to produce the competition’s best-ever overall score at the final stage of the season in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, some cliff divers already have Olympic experience. Englishman Blake Aldridge took part in the 2008 Games in Beijing, where he was eighth in synchronized diving.
“I would love it to become an Olympic sport. I don’t think there are many Olympic divers who would like to come and dive from this…[looking at the high diving platform]. But for me – it’s extreme, it’s fun, it’s crazy, it’s dangerous, it’s everything that makes me happy… to be able to go to the Olympic Games and then come here and do this…it just keeps my diving career going, that’s why i enjoy it,” he stressed.
The World Cliff Diving Series stage held in La Rochelle, in France, at the end of June was watched by a record-breaking crowd of over 70,000 spectators.
If popularity helps to ensure a sport becomes an Olympic event, then cliff diving certainly has a big advantage.