Every March from 1985 to 1992 thousands flocked to the shores of Lake Burley Griffin to witness one of the more spectacular events on the Canberra Festival program, the Capital 7 Birdman Rally.
Capital 7 put on the event after Canberra Festival organisers approached the television station looking for something that would appeal to families. Once a Birdman Rally was decided upon a survey of the lake was done with the most suitable site found to be in front of Regatta Point.
Canberra’s first Birdman Rally was held on Sunday 17 March 1985 and attracted 26 competitors. Prize money of $10,000 was on offer for the first entrant to fly 50 metres.
By 1987 the number of entrants had reached 39. On a beautiful, sunny autumn day the estimated 100,000-plus spectators cheered on the brave, innovative or just plain mad birdmen and birdwomen leaping off the 10m-high platform in the hope of flying 50 metres and collecting the $10,000. Whether gliding gracefully or nose-diving straight into the water, contestants were assisted back to shore by members of the ACT Water Police, who used the occasion as a training exercise for their divers.
Along with the planning of the actual event, Capital 7 production and engineering teams also organised the outside broadcast so that each Birdman Rally could be recorded, edited to a one hour program and broadcast.