top of page

Skydiving For Olympics???

I recently came across an article that establishes the early timeline for skydiving’s efforts to make it onto the program of the Games of the Olympiad. By adding a few more key dates, one realizes just how vertiginous it was.

The event described in the article took place on 21 March 1987. It was preceded by:

  • 6 June 1985, the final day of the 90th Session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Berlin, GDR, when the supreme Olympic body granted full recognition to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), making the non-motorized air sport disciplines ballooning, gliding, hang gliding and parachuting eligible to feature in the Olympics.

  • 17 October 1986, the first day of the 91st IOC Session in Lausanne, SUI, when IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch announced the host city of the Games of the XXV Olympiad in a blend of French and Catalan: “Ville de … Barcelona!”

What happened prior to these dates is best described in Pierre Morath’s book HIGH FLYERS (FAI and Musumeci S.p.A. April 2005), which was published on the occasion of the FAI Centenary. In the chapter “AIR SPORTS AND THE OLYMPIC GAMES: THE DREAM THAT NEVER CAME TRUE,” Morath and former FAI President Eilif Ness look at the world and internal politics that guided FAI in the quest to become part of a movement that carried altius (higher) in its motto.

Here is what occurred only five months after the memorable moment at the Palais de Beaulieu in Lausanne …



ln the evening of March 21st, 1987, in the town hall of а small village on the rough northern Mediterranean coast of Spain, a historical event took place that, in а few years, could dramatically change the face of sport parachuting. That day the official bid of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) and the Commission Internationale du Parachutisme (CIP) for Sport Parachuting to become а demonstration sport of the Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain, in 1992, was presented to Pasqual Maragall, the President of the Organising Committee of the Games and also the Mayor of Barcelona.

Esteve Ripoll, Mayor of Castelló d'Empúries

Pasqual Maragall had travelled the 120 kilometres from Barcelona to Castelló de Empúries to visit a Boy Scouts Camp. His day did not quite turn out as he expected.

Only three days prior to his visit, the Mayor of Castelló, Esteve Ripoll, asked the owner of the School of Human Flight, Roland Hilfiker, to put on а little display for His Excellency Pasqual Maragall. Hilfiker's DZ, the Costa Brava Parachute Centre, is located only а few kilometres away from Castelló, and he agreed to do а demo.


But then contact was made with Dr Uwe Beckmann, the President of the CIP, and in two days an impressive amount of work was done. With the help of Heinz Fischer, the publisher of the German Skydiver Magazin, а brilliant pamphlet containing dozens of full-colour prints was made to present the sport. Hilfiker put together а video, with shots from Norman Kent's Air Bears at the World Meet and Leo Dickinson's recording of the Olympic rings formation made during the Christmas Boogie 1986 in Empuriabrava. Beckman personally handed over the official bid, for Style, Accuracy plus 4- and 8-way Sequential RW.

“I have never encountered such an excellent salesmanship anywhere else,” Pasqual Maragall said, after being cornered and most kindly held as а hostage for nearly four hours.

Maragall obviously left the session deeply impressed. But there are still several obstacles to overcome. First of all, sport parachuting has to be approved by the Organising Committee of the Olympic Games 1992 (COOB 92). Secondly, COOB’s choice has to be ratified by the lnternational Olympic Committee (ЮС).


It is stated in the Olympic Charter that all Games must introduce two demonstration sports. So far, three Recognised International Sports Federations have made it clear they will present a bid - or have already done so - for those two slots: besides Sport Parachuting, Roller Hockey and Basque Pelota, also known as Jai alai.

Roller Hockey is very popular in Spain – they are reigning World and European Champions – and it is particularly popular in Catalonia, the autonomous region which has Barcelona as its capital.

Basque Pelota, the fastest ball sport in the world, has а stronghold in Spain too, in the Basque Country, and both federations are strong and wealthy. Given the turmoil caused by the Basque and also the Catalan strive for independence from Spain, the race to become а demonstration sport has some political implications too.


Maragall himself had never heard of parachuting as а sport – until this day in Castelló – and neither did a majority of his 170 fellow COOB members, all of them in a position to decide.

That is why Beckmann is currently orchestrating a campaign to promote parachuting as а demonstration sport for the Games in 1992. Says Hilfiker, after taking the mayor of Castelló as а tandem passenger on the demo, “I firmly believe that being part of the Olympic Games will improve the general public’s perception and appreciation of our sport.”


Olympic Rings in Empuriabrava © Dickinson

After Japan withdrew its bid to organise the FAI Relative Work World

Meet in 1989, there are steps currently being taken for Spain to bid for this Meet, and for it to be held in either Girona or Empuriabrava, а two-hour drive from Barcelona. This certainly would be а push in the right for parachuting to be accepted for the Games in 1992.

Normally, the demonstration sports for the Olympic Games are chosen four years in advance, so there is not much time left. Without doubt, an important year is coming

up for FAI and Sport Parachuting.

The Sport Parachutist, The Journal of the British Parachute Association, Volume 24, Number 3, June 1987, Dave Waterman, Editor

To be continued!

Roland Hilfiker

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page