The 22nd FAI World Hot Air Balloon Championship in full preparation!

Title PicCompetitors, crews, officials and balloonists from around the world are converging on Saga Japan for the 22nd FAI World Hot Air Balloon Championship.

The FAI World Hot Air Balloon Championship is held every two years with the previous championship being held in Brazil in 2014. The medal winners from that event, led by gold medalist and Japan's first World Champion, Yudai Fujita (JPN), along with silver medalist Uwe Schneider (GER) and bronze medalist Lupercio Lima (BRA), will be joined by 2014 Junior World Champion Dominic Bareford (GBR), 2014 and 2016 Women's World Champion Nicola Scaife (AUS) and 100 competitors (for a total of 105 competitors) from 31 countries. World championship competition flights are scheduled for each morning and afternoon, from the morning of October 31 to the morning of Sunday November 6.

Preliminary events for the World Hot Air Balloon Championship are underway. Practice flights scheduled for Friday October 28 and the afternoon of Saturday October 29 were cancelled due to weather but many competitors completed a practice flight in on Saturday morning. The final practice flight is scheduled for Sunday morning.

The first public event to begin the championship, the Light Fantasy, was held Friday evening despite occasional rain. This event featured the lighting of over 1.8 million LED bulbs on hundreds of trees lining the main street of Saga. Elisabeth Kindermann (AUT) representing all competitors and Jean Claude Weber (LUX) representing the Operations Team were presented with beautiful floral bouquets before taking part in the lighting of the trees.

The lights were lit by Elisabeth, JC, the mayor of Saga Toshiyki Hideshima and other dignitaries, with the assistance of local children. Following the lighting of the trees, balloonists and local organizers formed a parade and walked several blocks to the cheers of thousands of spectators. Citizens of Saga could interact with the balloonists and it was very clear that ballooning has a home in Saga.

Along the parade route, the were several exhibits of Japanese culture including drumming, dancing and marital arts. Several balloonist and spectators tried their hand at Japanese drumming.

The event can be followed on




Photo Credit: Sheri Skocdopole