Shimla, Sep 23 (IANS) Himachal Pradesh’s Bir-Billing in the picturesque Kangra Valley – voted the second best flying site in the world after Lake Como in Italy – is all set to hold India’s first AAI Paragliding World Cup 2015 in October.
A total of 102 paragliders from 49 countries, including six of the top 10 international ranking pilots, have confirmed their participation and the numbers could go up to 130, Sudhir Sharma, president of Billing Paragliding Association, told IANS.
While the state government and the association would jointly organise the event from October 23 to 31, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) would be the title sponsors.
The take-off site at Billing, situated at an altitude of 2,325 metres, has been refurbished to enable 15 to 50 gliders to take off simultaneously. The landing site at Bir, located at 1,360 metres, has also been expanded for safe landing, said Sharma, who is also the state urban development minister.
“The state government has spent Rs.7 crore on developing world-class infrastructure in and around Bir-Billing. Both the take-off and landing sites have been redesigned and state-of-the-art facilities provided for the paragliders, officials and spectators,” he said.
After screening, 130 pilots holding world-card ranking, including seven Indians, have been allowed to participate in the championship.
The maximum pilots are from Britain, followed by Russia, France, Germany and Switzerland.
“The first-ever world cup in the country will boost adventure sports and tourism in Himachal Pradesh,” the minister added.
Association general secretary Suresh Thakur said there would be no restriction for free flying at Bir-Billing, where the world record of an out-and-return flight of 132.5 km was set in 1992.
“More than 350 paragliders will be doing flying during the championship,” he said.
The world’s top paragliders – Maxime Pinot, Julien Wirtz and Clement Latour, all from France, Andreas Malecki of Germany and Jurij Vidic from Slovenia – have confirmed their participation.
The AAI Paragliding World Cup 2015 would also provide “wings” to the special children by providing them an opportunity to fly with the best pilots of the world in tandem flights, the event organisers said.
“Some of the experienced Indian and international pilots will be enlisted to take the children on flights and give them the unique experience,” the association said.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who will preside over the concluding ceremony, has asked the organisers to arrange special free flights for the children with special needs.
The Bir-Billing event would be the last leg of this year’s Paragliding World Cup.