by Mahmoud Fouly
FAYOUM, Egypt, Oct. 31 (Xinhua) -- In the breeze of Qarun Lake with its chilly weather and stable water in Egypt's Fayoum province north of the capital Cairo, pilots from home and abroad are taking part in the paramotor slalom championship.
More than 50 male and female pilots from at least 14 countries are competing in the 3rd World Paramotor Slalom Championships, Egypt 2018, under the World Air Sports Federation (FAI).
Besides the host, the participant states in the event, which lasts from Oct. 29 to Nov. 5, include France, Spain, Poland, Italy, Russia, the Netherlands, Finland, Belgium, Thailand, India, Algeria and Iraq.
Ahead of the opening ceremony on Monday, pilots had some training during the day and flew with their colored paramotors in the sky over the lake, bedazzling the attendees whose eyes were nailed to the sky to watch their acrobatic moves and air shows.
With an orange paramotor, Ramon Morrillas, a professional Spanish pilot, started an acrobatic training before sunset with a French pilot flying in a blue paramotor, amid cheers and applause of audience.
"This is my second time here in Egypt after I took part in a non-official challenge here last year. Spain came third in last year's challenge competition and I was the seventh top champion. It's not bad and we can compete to be the first in the world championship this year," Morrillas told Xinhua after he landed.
France, one of the largest teams with about a dozen of pilots, got the first place in a non-official challenge in Fayoum last year and its pilots aspire to preserve their leading position in the 2018 world competition.
Marie Mateos, 27, the highest placed female pilot in another FAI World Paramotor League Cup in 2017, said that there are big facilities in Fayoum to make their training easy, describing the saltwater Qarun Lake as "a beautiful place with normally a good weather and no clouds in the sky."
"Today we trained for pooling landing, kicking some sticks on the ground. We were preparing for a slalom task today but it was too windy," the paramotor championess told Xinhua, adding that the world championship is "a higher level" and hoping France would maintain its place in the lead.
Janejira Chui-Noei, 16, from Thailand, helped his country reach the top of the FAI World Paramotor League Cup in 2017, achieving a narrow victory over France back then.
"I have been flying for five years and this is my first time to join the world slalom championship. We will try our best to compete strongly, regardless of the result," the teenage Thai pilot said.
"It's my first time here in Egypt and I hope to enjoy it. I have never been to the pyramids before but I did yesterday. I really like it; it's very nice and beautiful," Janejira told Xinhua.
The competition is considered a push for the promotion of air sports as well as tourism in Egypt, which hosted in 2017 a non-official challenge between paramotor slalom pilots to pave the way for hosting this year's official world championship.
Hany Shaker, head of Sky Sports company that organizes the event in cooperation with the Aero Club of Egypt, said that Egypt tried to host the event officially in 2017 but the security conditions in Egypt were not clear to foreigners then, particularly Europeans.
"We held the 2017 non-official challenge as a copy of the world championship to show them how safe and secure Egypt is. When we later applied to host the official world championship in 2018, we could easily garner 24 out of 26 votes," Shaker told Xinhua.
"Such events can open the door for Egypt to organize similar future events, festivals and championships all over the country. This also promotes tourism, for we have 51 pilots accompanied by 57 people. The 51 are here to compete and the 57 are here to enjoy," he added.
Holding the 3rd World Paramotor Slalom Championships in Egypt is a testimony to the country's safety and security, which could get the FAI's nod after a competition with several states that have been trying to host the global event.
The competition is the highest level of events in paramotor slalom championships, gathering the best pilots in the world.
"In Egypt, there were safety issues some years ago. But I stayed here for one week now and I was here a couple of months ago and we all felt very safe," said FAI President Frits Brink.
"The event is certainly a promotion for Egypt, for it says something about its security situation. I also heard that the number of tourists has increased quite a bit at the moment. So, that's a good sign," the FAI chief told Xinhua during the championship in Fayoum.
For his part, the governor of Fayoum expressed happiness to see people from different nationalities participating in this championship in Egypt and to hear their positive remarks about the country's security conditions and the friendliness of its people.
"I call on them to be ambassadors of Egypt when they go back home and convey how safe and secure Egypt is and how wonderful and kindhearted its people are," Fayoum Governor Eassam Saad said during the opening ceremony.