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Did You Know...

... that Russia has a successful history in hosting big events?

Blue Skies Mag: TURNING POINTS in November
posted Nov 11th, 2016 - Old Cold War, new Cold War, Putin and Trump, Russian Cyber Attacks, Syria - gosh, you could really get scared when the word "Russia" comes up. Now, have you ever met Russian skydivers? Or have you even visited Russia?

I am in Siberia as I am writing this, and I am still alive. Yes, I took my chances and got myself a visa and a ticket to once again check out the United States' "biggest enemy" on the planet - at least according to the mainstream media and the government propaganda in the western countries.

Well, it's not my first trip to Russia, so I knew better anyway. I attended a 4-way competition in Moscow with the German national 4-way team in 1989. Yes, that was the year the Berlin Wall came down, the conclusion of the first Cold War. And we had a great time in Moscow—with the Russian skydivers and with the East German delegation, as well. By the way: I grew up in West Berlin, 500 yards from the wall, and it was built when I was a 5-year old boy. So it was exciting when it came down in 1989, and I was an eyewitness to both events, the second one after the skydiving visit to Moscow in 1989.

Black Cat on home turf in Tanay

TURNING POINTS: From Russia with Love

I also witnessed the first time that a formation-skydiving delegation from Russia competed at an international event, the World Championship in Rijeka, Yugoslavia, in 1985. And there was more to come, even though I never made a special effort to get to know Russia and the Russians - it just happened naturally after entering the skydiving world.

Next was the Malevsky Cup in Stupino near Moscow, which was probably the most popular and most sophisticated 4-way competition in the sport's history before Dubai came into the picture. By the way: Dubai is gone now as a host, at least temporarily, while Russia is still there.

I visited Stupino for the Malevsky Cup four times (2004 - 2007) and was impressed every single time with the event management, the investment into the sport and the welcoming atmosphere of the Russian host and the people, both skydivers and visitors alike.

Malevsky Cup in 2006
Then the Malevsky Cup was discontinued, which was surely not the end of Russian event hosting though. The FAI World Championship of Formation Skydiving took place in Menzelinsk 2010, first time on Russian soil in the modern era of formation-skydiving competition since 1985.

Once again, the Russian host invested heavily in the event and had bad luck with nature this time. It was a summer with record temperatures in Russia, and half of the country was burning, literally. The combination of extremely hot temperatures and smoke did not make it a pleasant experience, even though the Russians welcomed the world once again with all the warm hospital¬ity I had become used to. It was no problem to complete the meet, as there is no "too hot" in skydiving, at least not in f reef all.

Teams from Russia continued to train all over the planet and visit meets everywhere, often also taking home medals and prizes. It has always been a pleasure to meet the same and some new Russian skydivers and competitors and their friends and families when they came to attend events and train outside of their homeland.

FAI World Meet in Menzelinsk 2010
Menzelinsk 2010 was my last visit to Russia, and here I am again, six years later, at the Russian Nationals 2016, just a few weeks after the Mon¬dial 2016 at Skydive Chicago, where teams from Russia competed in all four Formation Skydiving events and all other skydiving disciplines.

It was in Yugoslavia in 1985 when a Russian delegation competed at a World Championship of Formation Skydiving for the first time. 36 years later Russia has become one of the most reliable factors in the sport, as a participating nation and as a powerhouse in the athletic area.

On top of that, the teams and competitors keep adding the very special personal relationships and the warm-hearted and welcoming atmosphere to the events, not only on their home turfs.

Things have changed in Russia, too, compared to 36 years ago. The skydiving centers I have seen are modern and sophisticated, often supported by wealthy investors, who are mainly just passionate skydivers themselves. They are in it mainly for the love of the sport, and their invest¬ment may turn out financially successful or not— they do it anyway.

It requires a special commitment and passion to invest in our sport in such a way, and it impresses me when I see people do that. It is even more impressive when you experience how they simply melt into the pot of skydivers at the drop zones and do what everybody does. I remember only one exception (who is not Russian), Abdu-laziz Ojjeh, who trained and competed with the French national 8-way team in the '80s, and who liked to separate himself from the crowds.

I am hoping that Russia will soon host a big event again and show to more and more people how much Russians are NOT what the mainstream media presents to us. In the meantime, I look forward to meeting my Russian friends again when they visit us in our western world - from Russia with love...

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