Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Opening ceremony: press release and photos

Opening ceremony was tonight. Here's the official press release. English only.

Headline: Set for take off: 120 of the world’s top hang glider pilots descend on Laragne for a 10-day international competition

June 25 2008
For immediate release
Laragne, France
Issued by the press office


One hundred and twenty of the world’s best hang-glider pilots gathered today in Laragne, France, for the start of the 17th Pre-World Hang Gliding Championships.

With blue skies and sunshine greeting the pilots after weeks of stormy weather Event Director David Owen said he couldn’t be happier with the welcome that Laragne and its people had given to the visiting pilots.

“Laragne is one of the best places in the world to fly hang gliders. The combination of good weather, mountains, wide valleys and welcoming people make it perfect,” he said. “We wish all pilots a safe and exciting competition.”

Launching the event with a band, speeches, and an exhibition of hang gliding inspired art at an evening reception hosted outdoors in Laragne on Wednesday June 25 the mayor of Laragne, M. Auguste Trupheme said: “Welcome to Laragne and to the Pre-World Championships. We’re very glad to have you here, and thank you for coming.”

Competition Director, Heather Mull, who is Australian, welcomed the pilots and said: “I hope you have a great time, with lots of fun and safe flying.”

The event was also attended by Bruno Lagier, president of the committee of the Communes de Ribiers, as well as representatives from the Conseil General des Hautes Alpes, Conseil Regional de PACA, and the president of the flying organisation the FFVL, Jean-Claude Benintende.

Flip Koetsier, president of CIVL, the international gliding organisation, was also in attendance. Officially opening the competition he said: “This is a unique championship because it has an international organisation – French, British, Dutch. Thank you to them for all their work.”

Some of the world’s top hang glider pilots also attended the opening. Current World Champion Attila Bertok told organisers he was looking forward to flying in Laragne. He said: “The biggest challenge is to keep the pressure down from my own expectations and take it easy in the first few days until I really got into race mode.”

Also flying at Laragne this week will be the British team. They won Team Gold at the 2007 World Championships in Texas, USA.

British team captain Carl Wallbank said: “I've flown in Laragne quite a few times. I love the place. It is quite technical so I still have a lot to learn here, but I always have hopes for a good result.”

School art competition

As well as the hang gliding competition Laragne and the region has hosted a children’s art competition over the past month.

A record 229 schoolchildren entered the painting competition. They had to draw or paint a hang gliding inspired picture on one piece of A4.

Announcing the winners at the competition opening ceremony last night, Sylvie Revel from the Office de Tourisme Laragne said: “Congratulations to all the winners – the standard was very high.”

The winner of the elementary school prize was Pauline Contesse, 9, from CE2 Laragne.

Second place was Lea Moreno, 11, CM2 Laragne. Third places was Sylvain Grimaud, 10, CM1 Laragne.

The winner of the college prize category was Jahinava Gargallo, 14, 4e College.

Second prize went to Mathilde Aurenty, 14, 4e College.

Third prize went to Helene Gutierrez, 14, 4e College.

The evening closed with a concert and aperitifs for the 120 international pilots and their friends.

Editors’ notes

The World Hang Gliding Championships are held every two years. They were last held in Texas in 2007.

The Pre-World World Championships are being held in Laragne, France, from June 24 2008 to July 4 2008.

Pilots will use the mountain near Laragne, Chabre, to launch from. They will fly distances of up to 150km each day before returning to the landing field at the Laragne campsite. Spectators and press are welcome to visit both launch and landing.

A full press pack and more information on the competition is available at (English and French) and the competition blog (in English) at

High resolution digital photographs are available on request from the organisation. Please email: Photographs from and the blog can also be used free of charge by the press.

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