Berlin — Shortly before the kick-off of the European Championship soccer match between Germany and France this week, a Greenpeace activist came hurtling down onto the field in Munich's soccer stadium. The environmental protester had intended to glide over the stadium with his paraglider and float a yellow balloon with a protest inscription down onto the grass, Greenpeace said, but his control system failed, sending him spiralling groundward.
The pilot eventually had to make an emergency landing inside the stadium on Tuesday evening, injuring two men in the stands before coming to a stop in the middle of the field. The two fans had to be treated at a local hospital.
German politicians of all stripes condemned the move, demanding a review of Greenpeace's non-profit status in the country on Wednesday.
On Wednesday evening, Greenpeace posted a picture online of the paraglider mid-flight, finally delivering the message he had hoped to drop quietly onto the field: "Hey, Volkswagen, time to kick out oil!"
The protest was directed at one of the major corporate sponsors of the European soccer championship, demanding that it stop selling cars with combustion engines. An hour later, another tweet from Greenpeace said the organization hoped nobody was seriously hurt.
By Thursday, Greenpeace had switched gears and tweeted multiple apologies. The managing director of Greenpeace Germany, Roland Hipp, expressed his deep regret, saying: "It was never the intention of the activists to endanger people."
But the paraglider himself may have been in the greatest danger. According to Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann, he had already been targeted by police snipers, who initially assumed it was a terrorist attack.
"It could have ended very differently, even for the pilot," Herrmann said.
Television viewers didn't catch too much of the action. Images of the paraglider hovering over the stadium were broadcast, briefly, but then cameras cut away or faded before later showing the pilot crouched on the ground after his crash landing.
One photo showed German player Antonio Rüdiger helping the activist to his feet before he was taken away by police officers.
The pilot is now under investigation for dangerous bodily harm and for dangerous interference with air traffic.