I must confess that when I visited the world famous Mostar Bridge in Bosnia-Herzegovina a few weeks ago, my attention was easily diverted from the historical reasons for my visit. Surrounded on all sides by the travelling fans, plus hundreds of local fans of the Red Bull Cliff Divers, I jostled with everyone else fo a place from which to view the adrenalin fuelled dives of these young men and women.
I had been unaware of the event until I got there so had to do a quick check on who was in what position, something I found fairly easy as the Mostar locals are all big fans. I was even informed that my own countryman, the young British diver Gary Hunt, was lying in fourth position at the time (he subsequently came in second in this trial).
Checking that all is well
You can read about the Stari Most Bridge (colloquially known as the Mostar Bridge) in my earlier post put up this afternoon so I need not go into its historical importance here, nor mention the terrible war in which it was destroyed.
Awaiting the “rescue” divers below.
The Iconic Stari Most bridge served as launch point for 22 male and female athletes during the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series’ 7th stop on 24 September 2016 in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Five-time champion Gary Hunt had missed out on a win in the previous two stops – in the past six seasons the brilliant Brit has never gone more than two stops without a win.
It may be a coach with the diver – Mari Nicholson.
I haven’t seen any of these Cliff Diving Championships before live, although I have watched some of them on media outlets but the stunning setting of Bosna-Herzegovina’s most renowned landmark, where diving has been a tradition dating back to the 17th century, has made me a total fan. The city’s diving enthusiasts have warm-heartedly welcomed the 22 World Series athletes for many years now and introduced them to their preferred take-off point high above the Neretva River.
There are Vantage Points Everywhere – Mari Nicholson
“This town lives for diving and lives for this bridge,” my waiter told me as we gave our order in Restaurant Teatro, a balconied eatng place that offered a fantastic view of the bridge, the crowds, and the amazing turquoise river below with the colourful rescue canoes and the wet-suited divers. He seemed to know everyone in the competition, from much respected Columbian Orlando Duque right down to the 25-year-old wildcard Australian female diver Rhiannon Iffland, here to battle it out with Canada’s Lysanne Richard.
The Diver Enters the Water and rescue is at hand should it be needed – Mari Nicholson
The first dives off the bridge date back more than 400 years, my waiter told me, but in the current competition, the men dive from a platform 28 metres high and the women from the bridge at 21 metres high. Eternalized in the city’s flag and coat of arms, life in Mostar has been centred on the humpback bridge ever since its construction in the 16th century as the young men plunge into the Neretva River to prove their courage in a test of maturity.
The colour of the water looks inviting – but from 85 feet?? – Mari Nicholson
Competition cliff diving dates back to 1770, when King Kahekili, the last king of Maui (Hawaiian islands), leapt from Kaunolu, a 63-foot (19-meter) cliff and entered the water below without causing a splash. Later, he made his warriors jump from cliffs to prove their courage and loyalty. It is probably the easiest sport for the enthusiast to enter as there is no equipment to buy and no special clothing to wear. All you need is nerve, a fit body, and the ability to sail through the air from a dizzy height and plunge into waters below, avoiding cliffs and jutting rocks as you descend.
Old Mostar and the bridge – Photo Pixabay
The teams tour the world as they compete in different countries each month in front of top judges from the sport. More information and pictures can be seen here. It really is thrilling.
See also: Mostar, UNESCO World Heritage Site in Bosnia Herzegovina.