It’s Saturday evening, and the 11thJunior World Gliding Championships is officially open. This happened at a short and effective Opening Ceremony, held at the Szeged airfield. All teams gathered in their ‘uniforms’ (typically, custom-made T-shirts) to witness a first-rate glider aerobatic routine followed by a couple of commendably brief addresses, the playing of the FAI anthem, the raising of the FAI flag, and a formal declaration that the contest was officially underway. Few present had ever seen this done in less time, nor ever wished for anything much longer.
Today was a no-fly day, which traditionally means the best soaring day of the week. No so here – the sky was overcast most of the day, and just a few drops of rain were felt. By the time of the ceremony, the sun was bright and hot (also an opening ceremony tradition) but no one was heard to lament today’s prohibition against launches.
Many improvement projects have been underway at the Szeged airfield during the practice period; most are now rounding into good shape. Some roads and paths are newly paved. Various new runway-edge markers are in place, making it easy for pilots to find the right place to land. The airfield admin building is undergoing a major facelift, with swarms of workmen applying thick insulation covered with stucco. This project is only about half complete, but the side of the building that faces the airfield is mostly done, and certainly looks elegant.
You might well imagine that world championship events are uncommon in Szeged (the most recent World Gliding Championships here was in 2010). But this is wrong. Just west of the airfield is an impressive rowing facility that trains Hungarian Olympic athletes and routinely hosts high-level events in various disciplines. The 11th International Dragon Boat Federation Club Crew World Championships recently concluded there. (A dragon boat is a large canoe-like craft, propelled by a crew of some 18 paddlers, a helmsman and a drummer.) This event attracted hundreds of boats and a total of around 6000 people. Soon to come after JWGC2019 is a kayak event; 2000 athletes are expected. Makes our contest with 80 pilots look like rather small beer.