Obstacles In The Olympics – Parkour Opens The Door

Obstacle-related sports made an appearance on the programme of an Olympic event last month, but perhaps not in the way most in the OCR community might have imagined.

Antoine Dupré at YOG

© YIS / IOC Jed Leicester

The Mouvement International du Parkour, Freerunning et l’Art Du Déplacement was invited by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to contribute to the Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic Games, as part of the sports and culture festival that ran alongside the more traditional competitions. As shown with skateboarding and climbing, this has become a pathway to wider Olympic inclusion.

“In the beginning, we were just doing it for ourselves,” said parkour co-founder Charles Perrière. “But what we were doing took on a life of its own. People told us we had to show it to the world, and as teenagers, we wondered what it would be like to take our creation to the Olympics. So being here is a nice little bit of recognition.”

Parkour showcases, demonstrations, and teaching took place indoors and outdoors, with practitioners also performing on stage at the Opening Ceremony. There were no competitions.

The indoor shows featured purpose-built modules from Cube Sports and were followed by classes for the audience, including members of the IOC. The latter were clearly impressed by what they saw. Legendary pole vaulter and IOC Executive Board member said: “It’s what I see the kids enjoying. The world is changing, there is some creativity, some new ideas that people bring to sport: this is always great.”

Supported by Ubisoft, the makers of the vastly popular Assassin’s Creed video game in which parkour movements are a key feature, allowed a positive link to be drawn directly between physical activity and youth culture.



© ArtFact / The Mouvement

The outdoor demonstrations and coaching took place in a DIY obstacle park, deliberately built out of construction site waste, pallets and cable drums. The goal was to remind participants (and their parents) that imagination, interest and common sense are all that are required to turn raw space into a place to play.

Parkour Olympics

@ArtFact / The Mouvement

Given the snow and ice, it was helpful to have the right pair of shoes, a common issue with OCR athletes who will recognize The Mouvement’s sponsor, Icebug, from the OCR World Championships. But OCR and parkour share more than just an interest in shoes.  Many OCR participants have turned to their local parkour groups to learn how to overcome obstacles, by treating anything and everything as an obstacle, and there are some shared roots.

Olympics parkour@Mathieu Chabasse / The Mouvement

Parkour stems from the French word parcours: commonly used in the context of parcours du combatant, or obstacle course. And as well as the more recent parkour, the French can be credited with the creation of modern obstacle courses.

At the French army’s physical education school, many of the features of modern obstacle courses and the thinking behind them were developed in the mid 18th century. Rigs featuring ropes, rings and more are the direct descendants of the portique concept created by Francisco Amoros, as demonstrated below in 1835:


A true visionary, Amoros wrote in 1832: “People’s greatest degree of skill and strength comes from finding within themselves the ability to overcome obstacles without recourse to additional help, which is not always available.”

Mark Cooper

Mark Cooper is an Olympic Movement sports professional and was formerly responsible for Olympic Games communications at the International Olympic Committee. He enjoys getting muddy and hauling himself across obstacles.

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