GENEVA: Swiss “jetman” Yves Rossy yesterday blamed an Internet-driven extreme sports culture for the death of Britain’s Mark Sutton, whose James Bond-garbed parachute stunt at the London 2012 Olympics wowed the world.
Sutton died on Wednesday in the Swiss Alps during a gathering of wing-divers organised by an extreme sports channel specialising in online videos.
Rossy, who in 2006 made sporting and aviation history by being the first man to fly with a jet-wing, blasted what he called the “YouTube-isation” of extreme sports.
“There’s an insane, headlong race to be the ‘most extreme’ and to ‘beat the rest’, but all with less and less preparation,” he told the Swiss daily Le Matin.
“All that in order to get more clicks when the video’s posted online, before it’s all but forgotten when a more spectacular one appears. I’m sick of it!”
Rossy said the problem was fuelled by Web-surfers who want to get their kicks at a distance by watching others in action, as well as sponsors who want to catch the eye of fans.
Wing-diving, developed in the 1990s, has gained cult following over recent years thanks to breathtaking Internet videos of the dives.
Practitioners wear special jumpsuits to add surface area to their bodies, gliding like birds before opening parachutes to land like a regular sky-diver.
Wing-diving is a form of base-jumping, a sport that Rossy also practises, which involves parachuting from fixed launchpads such as bridges, skyscrapers, or mountains.
Sutton, however, jumped from a helicopter at an altitude of some 3,300 metres, just inside Switzerland, and died after crashing into a ridge.
Sutton and two dozen other top-level wing-divers had gathered in the Alpine sports hub of Chamonix in neighbouring France at the invitation of a local extreme sports channel Epic TV, whose footage was reportedly being examined by police.
The 42-year-old former army officer played the role of Daniel Craig’s Bond in the most memorable sequence of the opening ceremony at last year’s Olympics, accompanying another stuntman dressed as Queen Elizabeth II.
While Rossy expressed sympathy for Sutton’s family, he was also bluntly critical.
“His death is the result of this culture of always going further. He didn’t scout the site with the required rigour. The result: he crashed. He played. He lost!”
Rossy noted that Epic TV had recently posted a video of a wing-diver on a risky flight through a hole in a cliff at 250 kilometres per hour.
“It was viewed (by) almost 10 millions, and the guy that did it must feel he’s really someone thanks to it. But if it goes on like this, the quest for maximum impact will be more about hitting rocks than the headlines!”