Should BASE jumping be promoted as spectator sport?

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Four months ago, Putrajaya Corporation (PPj) disclosed plans to make the Putrajaya BASE Jump, an extreme sports event, as one of the tourism products in the federal territory. The BASE Jump event was held on Aug 29 in conjunction with Putrajaya Silver Jubilee Celebration.

Its president Dr Aminuddin Hassim said the proposal is in line with promoting Putrajaya as a sports city and subsequently an extreme sports hub, as buildings in the administrative capital are suitable for extreme sports. He wanted more sports activities to be organised in Putrajaya that could attract an average of 15,000 to 17,000 visitors every weekend for sports and recreational activities.

Unlike motor racing in circuits and football tournaments played in gated stadiums where limited entrance tickets are sold, open spectacles are free of charge. Hence, any exciting event held at Putrajaya would draw huge crowds with onlookers packed closely together at vantage points, cars parked indiscriminately, garbage strewn, and toilets turned into horror chambers.

Success is assured if PPj is aiming for publicity or to celebrate its anniversary on August 29. But calling the BASE Jump event a tourism product is off the mark. Tourism is business and its products must generate income for the organisers. No business would stage a public event without planning for return on investment or at least contribute to brand building.

Holding a BASE Jump event does not make Malaysia a sportier nation as few people could participate because it is more of a spectator sport, unlike football and badminton played by large number of Malaysians. Those who like to jump off building, antenna, span, and earth (BASE) with a parachute often travel far to participate in such events as few are held.

The Kuala Lumpur Tower promotes BASE jumping to attract more visitors. I had often imagined a high wire strung between the twin 48-storey towers of Berjaya Times Square 666 feet high above with a daredevil walking across and traffic in the city reduced to a standstill. But there are good reasons for owners not to allow dangerous acts on their tall buildings.

Whenever Alain Robert, aka the French Spiderman, reached the top of a skyscraper using his bare hands with the help of a small bag of chalk and climbing shoes, he was always arrested. He never asked for permission, as none would be granted. While dangerous acts are thrilling to watch, one slip could result in death and the stigma may well define the site forever.

Is PPj prepared to risk the image of Putrajaya, our iconic administrative capital, by holding dangerous acts as spectator sports? But if a misfortune were to occur and widely publicised, Putrajaya could be associated with the tragedy, just like World Trade Centre to New York.

Sadly, a man died while performing a base jump trial at the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (KPWKM) building at Putrajaya on Friday. Along with seven other base jumpers from Team Putrajaya Corporation, the victim was training for a performance in conjunction with the 2021 Federal Territories Day.

Putrajaya District Police chief ACP Mohd Fadzil Ali said the jump was organised by PPj officials and involved the base-jumping teams from various agencies but the organisers did not notify the authorities, including the police, about the training.

As for the tallest buildings in Kuala Lumpur such as the 88-storey Petronas Twin Towers, the Exchange 106 and Merdeka 118, it is unlikely the management of these buildings would grant permission for people to climb up or jump off their buildings just to allow onlookers to enjoy fleeting thrills but at the expense of a stigma should a tragedy occur.

The views expressed here are strictly those of The True Net reader YS Chan from Petaling Jaya.