Paris prepares for ‘cliff diving’ event on banks of Seine

Paris will host the Cliff Diving World Series event in June, it has been confirmed (despite not possessing any cliffs).

Paris prepares for 'cliff diving' event on banks of Seine
Eleanor Smart of the US competes during the 2022 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in Paris. (Photo by JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP)

The Paris event – in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower on June 18th – will be the second-leg of the 2023 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, after Boston, on June 3rd, and before Polignano, Italy, on July 2nd.

In the men’s competition, 12 athletes will dive diving into the Seine from a board 27 metres (88 feet) above the river surface in one of the biggest sporting events on the banks of the river before the 2024 Olympic Games. The board in the women’s competition – also featuring 12 athletes – is 21 metres above the river.

During the event, divers jump from a platform at a height ranging from 26m to 28m – compared to 10m for the Olympic high diving competitions. As with regular diving, marks are given based on the degree of difficulty for the dive.

Winners are decided on the total results from a maximum of four dives – during which they will achieve falling speeds of more than 55mph. The bottom four after three rounds miss out on the chance of a final dive.

Cliff diving is considered to be one of the most dangerous extreme sports. Even in locations that host professional cliff diving events, authorities tend not to highlight it as an activity for visitors. 

Although, as the name suggests, the sport began on cliffs there are other non-cliff locations that host events – including the southern French city of La Rochelle, where competitors dive off the historic harbour walls.

Among the athletes involved in Paris next month, British-born French national Gary Hunt, 39, will be out to win an 11th men’s world series crown and continue his dominance of a global competition that started in 2009, and go one better than last year in his home town, when he finished second behind Romania’s Catalin Preda. 

Australia’s Rhiannan Iffland will defend the women’s title she has won since 2016, two years after the women’s competition began, and will be particularly wary of Canadian Molly Carlson, who finished second in 2022.

Here are some of the highlights from the Paris 2022 event.

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Paris petanque paradise makes pitch to avoid eviction

A storied Paris petanque club on Tuesday argued in court against a city eviction order, hoping to stay put in a private garden coveted by its boutique hotel neighbour.

Paris petanque paradise makes pitch to avoid eviction

For 50 years, the leafy haven at the top of the Montmartre district has housed the Lepic-Abbesses Petanque Club (CLAP) and its 257 members, fans of France’s national bowling pastime.

The players oversee the upkeep of the 765 square metres of grounds, a rare remnant of the vegetation that once covered the butte, with the city giving tacit approval by hooking up water and electricity.

Even amid rapid gentrification and a surge of tourism the club maintained its Montmartre village vibe.

But last year, city officials warned the nonprofit club that it was squatting the site without any authorisation, and said it would consider rival projects for use of the public land.

The CLAP says its the victim of the luxury Hotel Particulier adjacent to the site, whose owner is a former club member who wants his own private garden.

The hotel recently was given a 12-year contract to operate the site, which the club vowed to fight in court.

“No work was ever done on the site” by the city, the club’s lawyer Sebastien Le Briero told the Paris administrative court, insisting that the club was the de-facto occupant ensuring a rare green space in the area.

Lawyers for the city countered that no contracts were ever signed, and that games lasting into the night, helped along with clubhouse beers, had prompted noise complaints.

More than 7,000 people have signed an online petition to save the CLAP, calling it an essential part of Montmartre, which is hoping to join UNESCO’s ranks of protected World Heritage Sites.

“We want to keep the site in its current state, while opening it up as much as possible to the neighbourhood,” Maxime Liogier, the club’s communications manager, told AFP during an open house to rally support last November.

The judge’s ruling is expected on September 25.