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Paragliders wait in Himachal for CWG to conclude

SHIMLA: Over 80 paragliders from across the globe will finally take wing at an annual event in Himachal Pradesh this month. Many have had to wait it out as flying during the Commonwealth Games in Delhi has been barred because of security concerns.The paragliders will compete at the four-day Himalayan Open Paragliding Championship from Oct 29 in the Bir-Billing area, about 300 km from here, in Kangra district. More than 50 gliders – from Britain, Germany, Australia, and France – have been camping in Billing and waiting for the Games to end.The Himachal Pradesh government temporarily banned aero-sports in the state after a civil aviation ministry advisory stated there could be a security threat to the Oct 3-14 Games in Delhi, an official here told .The ministry imposed restrictions on the flights of micro-light airplanes and hang-gliders within an aerial distance of 300 km from Delhi. Stephen Purdie, a flying instructor from the Airworks Paragliding Center in Britain, who has been camping in the area, wrote a letter to government functionaries demanding lifting of the ban.”The irony is that it was a sporting event that caused this distress to a large number of sportsmen and women who have saved all year, in terms of both leave and money, to come to India to fly,” he said in his letter.Sheltered by mountains and surrounded by rolling tea gardens, Bir-Billing is situated at a height of 2,290 meters.
Local Billing Paragliding Association vice-president Suresh Thakur complained that the ban was imposed in Billing even though it was about 390 km away from Delhi – further than the ban radius of 300 km.He also said the ban was imposed without giving any notice in advance. “Moreover, the Games will be over by Oct 14 and there is no justification in imposing the ban till Oct 20,” Thakur said.A total of Rs.1.27 crore was sanctioned by the central government for improving the area’s infrastructure. The state government called off the paragliding event last year as it was developing the site.The entire range has been refurbished as per international specifications.”Now at least 100 gliders can take off from Billing at one point of time. The landing site at Bir has also been developed,” youth services and sports department joint director Suman Rawat told .The Aero Club of India is providing technical support to the event.Rawat said registration of paragliding pilots would start Oct 15 and the trials would be held a day before the event starts.Paragliders having performed 35-km cross-country twice and those having knowledge of collision avoidance and air traffic rules would be eligible for participating in the event, she added.Pilots can log on to http://himachal.gov.in/yss/ to get more information about the event.Bir-Billing with the mighty Dhauladhar mountain range in its backdrop is known as one of the finest aero sports sites in the world. Its name has also been included in international circuits for steady thermals.

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