Preface: Unfamiliar with our stance on competition and why we considered this opportunity in the first place? Read part 1 of this saga: On Competition & Collaboration
What’s going on with parkour, gymnastics, APEX School of Movement (APEX), The Mouvement, Le Festival International des Sports Extrêmes (FISE), Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG), etc?! Whether you are pondering this question or participating in constructive conversation with your community, we would like to take a moment to further explain as well as announce why we are no longer pursuing this opportunity.
Emails, phone calls, press releases, and interviews in the last week have brought to light new revelations and changing conditions that have greatly altered the nature and repercussions of our event in Montpellier. FIG’s agenda is clearly expressed in a recent interview with FIG secretary general André Gueisbuhler, “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.”
We do not stand for FIG governing parkour. The opportunity as it was presented to us is no longer aligned with surfacing information, and key assurances over the naming of our competition format were neglected publicly in statements made by FIG. It is evident to us at this point that our most important assurances will not be guaranteed or agreed upon by FIG. FIG’s interests do not coincide with what we perceive to be a step forward for the international parkour community. As representatives and defenders of this community, we are terminating our relationship with FIG.
Additional background info
At the end of 2016, we learned from The Mouvement about a potential opportunity to bring our obstacle course competition format to a more prestigious international stage. Since our previously used format name Time Trials could apply to other sports, we more precisely titled it Obstacle Course Sprint (OCS). Discussions did not become serious until February and March when FIG and FISE emerged as key partners. We had a deadline to run a major international event before June that would act as a final demonstration for Olympic consideration. Despite the crunched timeline, we remained cautiously optimistic about making the APEX INTL 2017 happen.
The opportunity presented
Because there isn’t currently an international federation for parkour to support our OCS competition format for Olympic consideration, we found the path through FIG an intriguing and exciting opportunity. We were also aware of other major disciplines that entered the Olympic world stage via established infrastructures. Here’s what the opportunity looked like:
- Our control and protection
- We would have significant control over ongoing development, presentation, format, etc. of OCS by having two spots on the highest committee that would have final say.
- Due to our stance in not recognizing parkour as a competitive sport, we were assured that important off-limit terms like parkour, gymnastics, freerunning, art du déplacement, and parcours gymnastics were never to be used in the naming of our competition format.
- We would have significant control in this naming process.
- Governance of parkour
- There was zero mention of any interest in FIG governing parkour.
The changing reality of the situation
We’ve recently had trouble in seeing our assurances be actualized. In the last week a lot of conflicting information has surfaced including:
- Our control and protection
- We’ve discovered information over this last week that indicates a loss of the control that we were originally assured for protecting our sport’s development; two assured seats on what we understood to be the highest governing committee of the development of OCS then became one seat. It was also revealed that a FIG representative would actually head this steering committee. Lastly, we discovered that due to a FIG-proposed change of rules regarding elections for steering committees (to be voted on in 2018), our single seat on the steering committee could soon be discontinued. This called into question what control and protection we may have after the Montpellier event.
- In all relevant media relating to FIG, there has been hardly any mention of APEX in bringing our sport to Montpellier on the Olympic pathway, adding to suspicions that we may be eventually pushed out.
- Our assurance that certain terms were off limits in the naming of this new Olympic sport were set to be clarified in FIG’s press release. This would help to clear the previous damage done from prior mistakes such as the event listing on the FISE website and media coverage on FIG. These off limit terms were suspiciously cut from the final FIG press release with no explanation as to why.
- Governance of parkour
- It has become clear that FIG seeks to absorb and govern the “free” spirits of the parkour community that are “not organized.” This is the encroachment upon and misappropriation of parkour. FIG did not reach out to us with explanations or apologies for André Gueisbuhler’s aforementioned interview. We requested an explanation to no avail.
- We have also been exposed to information outlining the plan to dissolve The Mouvement, having the former president of The Mouvement sit on the executive committee of FIG. We understand that he would also be a member of a group that would head up operations specifically for education and coaching. The president of The Mouvement (a founder of parkour/freerunning/art du déplacement) heading up education and coaching for FIG is further indication of their agenda.
Compounding these issues, our requests for a draft contract early on were met with long delays. We received a memorandum of understanding (MOU) from FIG in order to start moving forward (which was necessary for an extremely compressed time frame to run this event by its deadline). Our repeated requests for the draft contract went unresolved. Therefore, the original opportunity presented to us could not be assured.
The surfacing reality of new information and changing terms culminated in André Gueisbuhler’s aforementioned interview which further substantiates FIG’s intentions to govern parkour. All of this took place in the midst of the ongoing delay of the draft contract, solidifying our decision to cancel the event and end collaboration with FIG.
Apologies to affected parties
Although we stand behind our decision in the face of the potentially heavy consequences, we sincerely apologize to anyone who was negatively affected by the cancellation of this event. We apologize to the athletes who were excited to take part, to those who worked hard on submitting online qualifier entries, and to anyone who has experienced stress from the arising controversy.
We will still finish the online qualifier process. The top male and top female will still qualify for the next APEX INTL (details TBA) but we cannot currently guarantee the same budget to cover flights and competitor pay.
We hope you understand the complicated situation we’ve been faced with. Please know that we always do our best to constantly improve, learn, and right our wrongs.
To the people who put in the effort to be well informed, contribute thoughtful responses, and offer aid in such complex situations, please accept our sincerest gratitude. We would especially like to shout out Eugene Minogue, Julie Angel, David Ivey, John Hall, Damien Puddle, David Boden, and Dan Iaboni for their thoughtful perspective and constructive communication. Thank you to anyone else we missed or didn’t communicate directly with but acted as a clear and fair voice in productive dialogue. You are the people who make our community strong!
Huge shout out to Philip van Ees and Mark van Swieten from JUMP freerun who were heading up course construction for the APEX INTL in Montpellier. It was a pleasure working with you and we look forward to collaborating in the future. You guys are amazing at what you do and we have so much respect for you.
Call to action
We are a young, vibrant community and although we don’t have a legitimate international federation / governing body for parkour (yet), we most definitely don’t want outside international federations to create rules and regulations on how the parkour community develops. For example, there are many parkour organizations that have poured thousands of hours into developing quality educational resources and coaching certifications. If a national gymnastics governing body becomes the only recognized parkour certification in their respective country, the parkour experts may get pushed out of the market as dangerous and/or diluted versions of parkour win out.
It is clear that if we are to protect the authenticity and sovereignty of parkour, the international parkour community must establish a truly democratic, neutral, and authentic international federation / governing body. This must be a representation of the rich diversity of our community and be founded on the recognized principles and values of good governance. If we, the parkour community, don’t create our own international federation / governing body, we all remain vulnerable to outside agendas and profit driven organizations.
One complicating factor in being recognized as an international federation is that by the rules of the Global Association of International Sport Federations (GAISF), the discipline must be competitive. Perhaps the solution is to create parkour-inspired competitive events (OCS, Chase Tag, S-T-I-C-K, etc.) that are governed by national and international parkour federations.
Do you want to stand against the negative effects of another massive bureaucracy coming in to profit off the parkour community?
Support parkour groups that are working toward becoming national federations / governing bodies in democratic and fair ways in their respective countries.
Support Parkour UK! They are already recognized and are presently heading up the fight against outside organizations attempting to govern parkour. Parkour UK, in their open letter to FIG regarding the encroachment and misappropriation of parkour, actively offer their unique experience and expertise to help other countries establish national federations. For anyone with tools or resources to contribute to this cause, contact Eugene Minogue (CEO of Parkour UK) and let him know how you can help. They have our support!
Be the change you want to see! Amidst the beautiful diversity that is this international parkour community, keep training, speaking, and representing the image you want to see present in the development of parkour.
Stand tall. Speak up. Think for yourself and question. Question APEX, question other parkour organizations, question your peers. There are no gurus. No pedestals. Be well informed. Contribute constructive conversation. Dream up effective solutions.
Thank you to all who have supported us over the past decade. Thank you for your patience in our handling of this overwhelming dilemma. This obstacle only made us stronger and wiser, and we’re excited for the next.
Amos Rendao, Brandon Douglass, & Ryan Ford