The International Gymnastics Federation has given its approval, in principle, for a new discipline based on obstacle course competitions ©Getty Images

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) has given its approval in principle for a new discipline based on obstacle course competitions in a move that is likely to intensify the ongoing row concerning parkour.

The FIG's Executive Committee and Council approved the key stages for the discipline's formal inclusion at a recent meeting in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku, with a view to organising World Cup series in 2018 and 2019 and World Championships from 2020.

The FIG Presidential Commission was mandated to continue pursuing using elements of parkour in a potential new discipline following the last meeting in Lausanne in February.

The worldwide governing body announced following the meeting that the FIG Executive Committee had been given a presentation on the development of obstacle course competitions, or parcours d'obstacles, and also parkour, exhibited at last year's Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer.

Governing bodies within parkour have criticised the proposals.

Citing a recent Vestnik Kavkaza interview with FIG secretary general André Gueisbuhler, Parkour UK chief executive Eugene Minogue told insidethegames "it's now fully substantiated that FIG is encroaching and misappropriating parkour/freerunning".

In the interview, Gueisbuhler is quoted as saying: "I'm sure the FIG is the International Federation most qualified to further develop parkour."

In an open letter to the FIG, Parkour UK called for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which would "formally acknowledge the recognised sovereignty of parkour/freerunning".

The London-based organisation also threatened to take the issue to the Court of Arbitration for Sport if an MoU was not established within 60 days of a formal meeting between Parkour UK and FIG.

The move is likely to intensify the ongoing row concerning parkour ©Getty Images
The move is likely to intensify the ongoing row concerning parkour ©Getty Images

In making today’s announcement, the FIG has moved to make a distinction between parkour and obstacle course competitions.

It is claimed that throughout the inclusion process of the new discipline, the FIG has been supported by the Mouvement International du Parkour, Freerunning et l'Art du déplacement, established in 2014 by the co-founders of parkour.

Before the Executive Committee's first decision on the issue in February, FIG President Morinari Watanabe undertook a trip to Lisses in the Paris suburbs to meet the current President of the Mouvement, Charles Perrière. 

"As a well-established international Olympic sport federation, the FIG has agreed to give its support to the development of a discipline that has generated real interest to the whole world," Watanabe said. 

"The FIG is doing so with the desire to respect the philosophy that drove the founders of parkour, and to empower them."

Perrière added: "The collaboration between the Mouvement and the FIG aims to ensure there is a positive link between obstacle course competitions and the original practice of parkour, by definition a non-competitive physical activity. 

"The appeal of one is able to lead to increased interest in the other, and vice versa."

FIG expects to include two formats of competitive obstacle course events in the new discipline, obstacle course sprint, an against-the-clock format, and obstacle course freestyle based on performances that will be judged.

It is claimed the courses for these competitions, while mainly artificial, are based on real-world shapes found in urban and natural environments.

The first event under the FIG's auspices is due to take place on May 28 during the International Festival of Extreme Sports (FISE) in French city Montpellier.

Serving as a model for a proposed urban cluster at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and future Games, the 2017 FISE includes several other competitions, notably BMX freestyle, boulder climbing and roller skating.

Representatives from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will be present to observe the new trends in view of Tokyo 2020.

For the organisation of these planned competitions and initiations, the FIG says it has partnered with the Mouvement International du Parkour, Freerunning et l'Art du déplacement via President Perrière, as well as with the United States’ APEX School of Movement and The Netherlands’ JUMP Freerun.

Parkour was exhibited at last year's Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer ©YIS/IOC
Parkour was exhibited at last year's Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer ©YIS/IOC

During their meetings in Baku, the FIG Executive Committee and Council approved a roadmap outlining key steps in the inclusion process.

The FIG intends to start in early June by convening a meeting in Lausanne for representatives of existing International Federations and other interested parties, including major event organisers, to learn more about the FIG's processes, define common goals and establish the basis of positive collaboration.

The next FIG Executive Committee in Vestfold in Norway at the end of July is due to decide on the organisation of a series of World Cup events in 2018 and 2019, together with the principle of holding World Championships in even years from 2018, although more likely from 2020.

FIG also intends to collaborate with the Mouvement in order to encourage the development of non-competitive practices, bringing its support to the humanitarian actions led by Peace and Sport and the IOC in refugee camps and in Olympic centres in Haiti and Zambia.

The inclusion of a new discipline will also require modifications to the FIG's technical regulations, set to be submitted to the next Council meeting in 2018, together with changes to the FIG Statutes, which should be put to a vote at the Congress in Baku later the same year.

The new discipline, not been officially named, is the FIG's eighth alongside Gymnastics for All, men's and women's artistic gymnastics, rhythmic, trampoline, acrobatic and aerobic.