New world-record Sochi swing is like jumping off 60-story building

The world’s biggest swing – 170 meters - is now in Sochi, after A.J.Hackett, the man who first commercialized bungee jumping, opened his latest resort in the Black Sea city, which is trying to position itself as a world tourism center.

To get to the swing, which is located the equivalent 60 floors above ground, the customers cross the world’s longest footbridge – 439 meters – perched between two mountains, near Krasnaya Polyana, the site for the mountain events of this year’s Winter Olympics.

Once strapped into the seat, the person or pair of passengers are ejected over a verdant valley at what the makers call “near-space speeds,” covering 500 meters in just a few seconds.

“If you want to experience extreme sensations and shout out a few swear words you didn’t realize you knew, this is the choice for you,” an obviously terrified professional reviewer said on a recently posted YouTube video.

“The only problem was that it was so fast, we didn’t realize what was happening. Once is not enough.”

The ride, which is almost 40 meters taller than the current record-holder, the Nevis Swing in New Zealand, which will set visitors back a considerable $150 for a solo run, and $200 for a tandem, is the highlight of Sky Park, the newest attraction in Sochi’s ambitious and growing entertainment profile.

The park also includes the world’s fastest troll – a wire between two points – that allows people to accelerate to over 150 km/h, and the tallest bungee jump in Russia at 209 meters.

It is operated by the eponymous company controlled by the 56-year-old New Zealander A.J.Hackett, who literally invented bungee jumping in its current form, when he opened the first commercial bungee jump site in 1988, and still holds many of the Guinness records associated with the activity.

The sport had been tried informally in the previous decades, but there was little supervision, and the rope and safety technology used seemed more liable to produce lawsuits than a line of happy customers. Hackett himself started off with high-profile bungee-jumping stunts, such as diving off the Eiffel Tower in 1987, before coming round to the idea that bungee jumping, and massive swing-riding can be performed by ordinary people. Now, he and a group of partners have parks similar to but less spectacular than Sochi, dotted around the world.

While Hackett has got his hands on a standout location, which should draw in adrenaline addicts and record-chasers from around the world, the local government receives its own benefits from the multi-million dollar joint project.

After staging the most expensive Olympic Games in history, with the total bill well in excess of $50 billion, Sochi was hoping that its brand-new facilities do not become white elephants, ignored by wealthy Russians preferring to travel abroad, and too expensive for locals.

As a way of widening Sochi’s appeal, the city has already held a F1 Grand Prix, has two heavily-financed hockey and football teams, and has just staged Magnus Carlsen’s successful World Chess Championship defense.