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A Story Well Told

Since yesterday I am watching quite a few of the live webcasts coming out of the 2019 FAI World Cup in Canopy Piloting on Facebook – and I like what I see. The Skydive Pretoria organizers pull out all the stops and produce very compelling coverage on the events contested through Sunday 24 November.

I salute the World Cup organizers and the crew involved in the production of the live signal from the Wonderboom Airport in Pretoria, South Africa. It is quite a show they are putting on: those on camera as well as those behind it – the director – and the entire results and graphics departments too.

By comparing this World Cup production with the one on the swoop freestyle competition in Saudi Arabia I have watched through the Olympic Channel (OC) in early August, I would not do any justice to either one. Not even if I would factor in the estimated production budgets that the respective host broadcasters were able to count on.

As a Facebook live webcast targeting the community – produced with adequate equipment (but without getting tempted to splurge on deploying the fancy stuff either) – the World Cup coverage does much more than just hold up its own. The audience sizes only confirm that. 200 live viewers at 08:00 UTC today is not bad at all – and cumulative totals of around 5,000 viewers for each of the blocks transmitted yesterday are downright spectacular. Social media, particularly Facebook for videos, is where it is happening for sports such as ours. Keep up the good work guys!

I have been away from the scene for quite some time. The last canopy piloting competition I witnessed on location was the one during The World Games 2009 Kaohsiung in Taiwan. Carved Speed, Drag Distance and Zone Accuracy were contested. Freestyle was not on the program back then. The first FAI World Canopy Piloting Freestyle Championship was held in 2018 in Wroclaw, Poland.

I understand that another Freestyle World Championship has also been run under FAI sanction – with three legs taking place between 2017 and 2018 in Copenhagen and San Diego. To differentiate it from the Canopy Piloting Freestyle, either the FAI Parachuting Commission (IPC) or the rights-holding entity have reactivated a term that was at one point discarded by the IPC in favor of Canopy Piloting: Swooping/Swoop.

The FAI Swoop Freestyle World Championship did not take place in 2019. Most likely it was substituted with the competition in Saudi Arabia that I had watched on the OC. It is too bad that we don’t get to watch this World Cup through the same outlet. After all, it is the FAI that partners with the channel since 2016 to promote its own events.

I do understand that neither the competition format nor the production standard in South Africa are suited for any live transmissions on major outlets (like the OC). But very likely the organizers could put together a short highlight, maybe 26 minutes, with the abundance of outstanding imagery they create day after day. Together with the World Cup organizers, FAI could then keep some control over the narrative of such a windfall production – much more than it was able to do in the August competition.

More after the Canopy Piloting Freestyle on Sunday!

Roland Hilfiker

ISGS Organizer and Moderator

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