Slovenia to host 24th FAI World Hot Air Ballooning Championships in September
The town of Murska Sobota, Slovenia will host 105 ballooning teams from 33 countries, who will compete in the 24th FAI World Hot Air Ballooning Championships between 16-23 September. There will also be 200 places per day for visitors to experience a hot air balloon flight, encouraging new participants to the sport.
Ready to go after pandemic delay
Murska Sobota will host this year's world's top ballooning event from 16-23 September: the 24th FAI World Hot Air Ballooning Championships, which has been postponed for two years due to the pandemic. The competition is organised by the local ROTO Balloon Club in cooperation with FAI, the Municipality of Murska Sobota, the Aeronautical Association of Slovenia and the Aeroclub Murska Sobota.
History of hosting major balloon events
The Pomurje region is ideal for ballooning due to its flat terrain and favourable temperatures and winds. Pomurje previously hosted the FAI European Hot Air Balloon Championship in 1994. The teams that competed still remember it fondly for its excellent organisation, beautiful scenery and the hospitality of the local people.
In 2019, the Pre-World Championship, or the Slovenian Open National Hot Air Balloon Championship was held by the same organisation as this year, with 40 local and foreign teams from Slovenia and 18 foreign countries. The Pre-World Championship was viewed as a rehearsal for the World Championship, and the organisers did an excellent job.
In 2020, despite the pandemic measures, the team managed to organise the Open National Championship. And for the first time in the history of Slovenia, spectators were able to witness the take-off of gas balloons from the Expano Pavilion at the Lake Soboško jezero.
A global event with top pilots
The coming event is a great recognition for Slovenian ballooning, with 800 members of competing teams alone. A total of 105 teams from 33 countries around the globe with compete, and spectators will be able to admire more than 150 balloons in the air, mainly taking off and landing at Murska Sobota Airport. The main centre for the competitors will be at the Rakičan Castle, with the opening ceremony and accompanying activities will take place at the Expano venue. The pilots will compete in various tasks over the six days of competition, showing their balloon handling skills and skills in solving various flying tasks.
Slovenia has a number of excellent hot air balloon pilots who have achieved outstanding results in international competitions, including in the first category of FAI events. This year, Vito Rome, Dejan Buzeti, and Jernej Bojanovič qualified for the World Championship. They will be joined by the current World Champion, Dominic Bareford (GBR), the reigning women's world champion Daria Dudkiewicz-Golawska (POL) and two junior world champions Roy Gommer (NED) and Jan Suchy (CZE).
How do balloons compete?
The competition is conducted in accordance with the standard rules of the FAI Ballooning Commission, which defines the tasks in which the pilots compete and the rules on the basis of which the winning pilot is selected at the end of the competition.
Two flights are planned each day. Each flight may contain several different tasks, which are announced before the flight starts, once weather conditions are assessed. The aim of competition flights is not to achieve the best time, distance, or altitude as in other sports. Competitions require pilots to use their skills to control balloons over a specific area. Tasks include targets, objectives, scoring areas, time and space constraints that the pilot must observe to demonstrate his/her ability to plan, anticipate and manage the balloon in the given weather conditions. The competition is essentially a strategy game in which the competitors combine several components, requiring considerable tactical skills.
It will not only be an event for the top competitors, but also a ballooning spectacle for the audience. The multitude of colourful balloons in the air is a feast for the eyes and balloon enthusiasts from around the world will flock to Pomurje to enjoy the show, the Expano exhibition pavilion and the region’s tourist attractions.
Organisers are preparing a rich accompanying programme for the public. At the opening event on September 17, where up to 10,000 people are expected, the main attraction will be the aeronautical rally Expano Airshow and Key Grab, an attractive discipline in which balloons compete to see who will be the first to pick up a key in the middle of the Lake Soboško jezero.
Among the most photogenic moments will surely be the evening group take-offs “fly outs” and morning group arrivals “fly-ins” of more than 100 balloons in the surroundings of the Murska Sobota Airport, and the Night Glow, where 40 festival balloons of all colours and shapes will shine in a special glow event.
The most eagerly awaited novelty of this year's event is the commercial flights – 100 places on the morning and 100 places on the evening flights will be available every day of the Championships for visitors to fly in a hot air balloon and get a bird's-eye view of the venue. Booking and tickets for the flights will be available on the organiser's website. So come to Murska Sobota to meet new champions and experience this unique sport up close.
Pictures and videos: SM Studio Marketing