Sunday, July 4, 2010

Opening Day

On the day of the opening ceremony we didn't have to be at the airport to day until 9:30 for the safety meeting, which was mandatory for all competitors. Fortunately as I am not a competitor, my presence was not required. So while the pilots sat in a hot hanger for forty five or so minutes, I was able to read my book in a silence. Meanwhile, something akin to a carnival had been set up all over the airfield. There was face painting, falconry from the nearby castle, and rides in various aircraft were available all day. The festivities were mainly for the citizens of Prievidza and Bojnice, and they took full advantage of it. Thousands of locals flocked to the airfield to take part in the opening ceremony for the 31st FAI World Gliding Championship.

By four o'clock, all of the teams had been organized into a line for the parade. Naturally it was alphabetically arranged, so we had the United States of America bringing up the rear, but proudly toting our American flag. The entire ceremony was filmed, and our parade was followed by speeches from various city representatives, beginning with the mayor of Prievidza. We were treated to an interesting dance titled "Dance of the Dynamics", which incorporated both a local dance studio, and the airplanes, called Dynamics, which are used for towing. Last of all was a thrilling air show, and possibly the most highly anticipated part of the ceremony. No one was disappointed, the air show was a complete success and even included a small airliner, which did several low passes over the runway.

That evening, all team members, crew, and even those tagging along for moral support were invited to the castle for a banquet, complete with music and entertainment. After what seemed an eternity of waiting in line for dinner, I finally received my food, and sat down to eat with Lily Gallmeister, the daughter of one of the crew members. After enjoying our dinners, we set off in chase of an English speaking tour of the castle. Although we never caught up, we were able to do a little exploring of our own, but unfortunately we were shepherded back down to the entrance hall before we got a chance to ascend the dark, winding staircase. Apparently the Slovakian tour guides didn't share our desire for adventure. Eventually we did end up following a tour, but it was definitely not an English speaking tour. Lily, her mom, and I just smiled and laughed as if we know what was being said. We ended up leaving the castle at eleven, just enough time to get a decent amount of sleep.

-Blair Mockler