A champion spectacle: Free running in the UK

Trafalgar Square sees demonstrations of a different kind as urban acrobats compete for a world title. Andrew Johnson reports

They came from all corners of the world to enthral 8,000 spectators with their kong vaults, palm spins and diving rolls. Yesterday, for the first time, Trafalgar Square hosted the free-running, or parkour, world championships – the sport based on leaping over and across buildings and urban obstacles.

The high-profile venue marks another step in the sport's increasing popularity, although not everyone is happy.

Dan Edwardes of Parkour UK, the governing body for the sport, described the event as "taboo" within the community. "It goes against all the principles of parkour," he said. "We are not competitive and the stunts they do are dangerous. It is not the image of the sport we want to convey."

Britain became aware of free-running seven years ago when the BBC used images of youths leaping the gaps between rooftops for one of its "idents". Now it is taught in schools and used in training by the Royal Marines.

Trafalgar Square was filled with wooden blocks and scaffolding to allow the 27 contestants from as far afield as Mexico and Australia to show off their skills.

"We're bringing the sport up to the next level, cranking it up by about 20 times," said Paul Corkery, known as EZ, who last year helped organise the first championships, held in the Roundhouse in Camden, north London. "The great thing about it is that it is accessible to everyone. It's about how you tackle obstacles, and you can go out and do it anywhere."

The sport was developed by French enthusiasts 20 years ago, on rundown estates in Paris. However, its roots are said to be in 19th-century France, as well as in the "natural human movements" of African tribes.

As seen in the movies

Luc Besson's Taxi (1998) features the first on-screen appearance of free running.

In 2004 the director used extensive sequences of the sport in District 13.

Daniel Craig's James Bond chases a bad guy around a building site – and up a crane – in one of the most famous uses of free running on film in 2006's Casino Royale.

Live free or Die Hard (2007), Bruce Willis's fourth Die Hard movie, sees a martial arts expert using free-running movements.

In You Don't Mess with the Zohan, Adam Sandler's 2008 flop, Team Tempest perform free-running back flips

In the 2009 comedy Paul Blart: Mall Cop, criminals used free running as a way of moving quickly through a shopping mall.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before