A group of half-naked elderly men diving off a bridge in downtown Tianjin has recently taken the Internet by storm.
Their once unnoticed pastime has made them viral sensations, but the spotlight raises new safety concerns as copycats attempt to follow their lead.
Crowds of people cheer for the diving grandpas on August 28.
The grandpas, who are deeply tanned and exude enthusiasm, love to perform their signature moves, which often include humorous self-introduction and quips in local dialect, before performing the daring plunge.
Visitors to the bridge will find the grandpas surrounded by curious onlookers, cheering youths, and Internet celebrities who come to watch the dives and give points using self-made scoring cards.
The divers interact with the audience.
The Shizilin Bridge stands about 6 meters above the surface of the Haihe River, which runs across Tianjin and there are occasionally ships sailing by.
As the bridge’s popularity and audience continue to grow. The safety of the sport has become worrisome.
To protect the safety of the daring grandpas and occasional tourists and Internet-celebrities who perform the own dives, volunteers in red vests, along with traffic police and urban management officers, have appeared at the bridge to keep the divers and crowds in order, along with lifesavers and rescue teams who are on standby.
“It’s no joke for people with zero experience in diving. Safety should always comes first, and people should not simply try diving because others are doing it, said one of the grandpas to thepaper.cn.Play
Drone footage of the divers and crowds at the Shizilin Bridge.
Amid the diving videos, short-video platform Douyin users have jokingly dubbed the Shizilin Bridge as a “8A level” tourist attraction, while 5A represents the top level of China’s tourist attractions rating system.
The phenomenal entertainment form has even drawn professionals, including 2008 Beijing Olympic gold medalist He Chong. He paid a visit to the bridge and surprised the cheering crowds with a riveting performance. Play
Beijing Olympic gold medalist He Chong performs diving for the audience.
The grandpas and the volunteers there are actually pretty protective of new divers. They would try to talk them out of it if they don’t have previous diving experience. He spoke highly of the experience in a post on Zhihu.com.
“The pure fun I had that day was just like when I first tried diving, without anything else attached to it. The daring grandpas simply did it out of the fun and the cheers from the crowds. They reminded me why I started the challenging sport,” He said.