GENEVA (AP) - He wasn't a competitor, but Mark Sutton still got one of the biggest cheers of the 2012 Olympics.
Sutton, who was killed during a wingsuit jump in the Alps this week, was the skydiver who parachuted into London's Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony dressed as James Bond, alongside another stuntman disguised as Queen Elizabeth II.
It was the punchline to a filmed sequence in which Daniel Craig's Bond escorted the real queen from Buckingham Palace onto a helicopter - and, for many, the highlight of director Danny Boyle's ceremony.
Swiss police confirmed that Sutton died Wednesday when he crashed into a rocky ridge near Trient in the southwestern Valais region. They gave his age as 42.
Wingsuits - aerodynamic jumpsuits that make wearers look like winged superheroes - allow fliers to jump from planes, helicopters and occasionally cliffs and soar long distances before opening parachutes to land.
Boyle on Thursday paid tribute to Sutton, saying he and fellow diver Gary Connery had "made the stadium gasp ... and left indelible memories for people from all walks of life all over the world."
"The show was built from so many contributions from so many people, none finer and braver than Mark Sutton," Boyle said. "On behalf of everyone in the show we were all honored to have worked with him and to have known him as a friend and a professional. "
London 2012 chief Sebastian Coe said Sutton was "a consummate professional and team player" who would be widely missed.
Online extreme sports broadcaster Epic TV said Sutton was killed during a gathering it had organized involving 20 wingsuit pilots who were filmed as they jumped from helicopters. The firm said Sutton's death was "a tragic loss for the global wingsuit community."
The former British Army officer with the Gurkha Rifles who worked as a derivatives adviser was an accomplished skydiver. He performed at the Olympics alongside his friend Gary Connery. Sutton was the tuxedo-clad Bond, while Connery wore a pink dress and wig to play the queen.
Connery told The Sun newspaper that he had lost a friend who was "smart, articulate and funny."
"In any sport where you share a common bond you can make friends in a heartbeat that last a lifetime," he was quoted as saying. "My relationship with Mark was like that."
Sutton was an experienced participant in the exhilarating but dangerous world of wingsuit jumping, and had worked with Connery on a bid to complete the first jump from an aircraft without a parachute. Sutton filmed Connery's successful attempt in May 2012.
Valais police, who are investigating Sutton's fatal accident, said crashed into a mountain ridge and fell to his death after jumping from a helicopter at 3,300 meters (10,800 feet)
Epic TV editor-in-chief Trey Cook said Sutton jumped with another diver who was wearing a camera, though the moment of impact had not been captured.
Q&A on the extreme sport of wingsuit flying
HOW DO THEY WORK?
Basically, the material functions like an artificial set of wings, giving a person's body more exposure to wind. That gives a user the needed lift and drag in the air to adjust the forward speed and fall rate. Wingsuit fliers have to arch or roll their shoulders, or move their knees and hips, to control the descent. They then open parachutes and land.
WHAT'S IT LIKE TO WEAR ONE?
They can't be too loose or too tight. A loose suit means the material flaps too much while flying; a tight fit is uncomfortable and could cause a zipper to fail. There also are leg straps, chest straps and a harness, along with thumb loops over the altimeter and gloves, and emergency handles that can get accidentally covered up when the wingsuit fully opens. A person's arms have to stay parallel with their body, and legs have to remain straight with the knees locked and toes pointed.
HOW DANGEROUS - OR SCARY - IS IT?
Swiss police noted that Sutton, who doubled as a skydiving James Bond during the 2012 Summer Games' opening ceremony, was "among the best in the world" in the rarified sport of wingsuit flying. The British Parachute Association's training manual describes the sport as "a new form of skydiving" meant for experienced skydivers who get instruction from a wingsuit coach. "For some this is an extremely scary type of jumping," it says, noting that proficient wingsuit fliers can fly horizontally at speeds of up to 235 kilometers per hour (145 miles per hour). A parachute is usually needed just one to three minutes after jumping from 4,000 meters (13,000 feet).
ARE THERE LAWS OR REGULATIONS?
Wingsuit flying is a gray area, reflecting the newness of the sport. Most places don't have specific restrictions on it. In Sutton's native Britain, wingsuit fliers are required to have a parachutists' certificate with at least 500 descents and other skills. The French alpine center of Chamonix, a climbers' mecca where gondola-assisted paragliders already are a common sight, tried banning the use of two main lifts for wingsuit flying last year after a Norwegian died. The ban by Chamonix's mayor called it a precaution against collisions with other aerial athletes. Just last month it was lifted, but now wingsuit fliers must first notify authorities and restrict themselves to certain hours.
WHY DO PEOPLE DO IT?
Sutton, in a video of him flying last year off a wall on Switzerland's iconic Eiger mountain, said it was just "amazing" to fly in a wingsuit. One major manufacturer says its wingsuits, which cost $1,050 to $1,750, "allow skydivers and BASE jumpers (those leaping from fixed objects) to realize the dream of human flight, gliding among the clouds, to make flock formations and to swoop along the mountainside."
ARE THERE LIMITS TO WHAT'S POSSIBLE?
Time will tell. For the 60th anniversary this year of mankind's first ascent of Mount Everest, Russian extreme sports star Valery Rozov used a wingsuit to jump from the north face at a height of 7,220-metres (23,687-feet), the highest such feat so far. He also spent more than two years preparing for the stunt.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)