Eight paratroopers from the elite 911 airborne brigade will this afternoon theatrically descend into the middle of Olympic Stadium, forming the centrepiece of the opening ceremony for the country’s first ever National Games. They will be hoping not to repeat a disastrous Wednesday practice run.
Amid peak hour traffic at about 6pm, poor wind conditions pushed a number of the jumpers off course, with one landing on a major boulevard by the stadium and another ending up helplessly suspended from a lamppost by his chute for 15 minutes.
“He looked like he had hanged himself,” recounted security guard Som Soum, 36, a security guard working at a petrol station outside the stadium, and directly in front of the fateful lamppost.
Em Bunthoeurn, a pump attendant, said the crowd swung the helpless elite paratrooper – dangling from the crossbar – closer to the lamppost until he was able to get down.
Across the street, the other paratrooper briefly brought traffic to a standstill on the congested Monireth Boulevard, which served as his emergency landing strip, according to Soum and other witnesses.
“Everyone stopped their cars and motos; they were afraid they might hit him,” said Srey Tea, a vendor at a fruit shop in front of the landing strip.
Soum, the security guard, said he heard one of the paratroopers explain that strong winds at high altitude and weak winds at lower altitudes were to blame.