The 68 paragliders including nearly 20 foreigners bid farewell to Wagamon on Sunday hoping for another international paragliding championship in 2010 even as Wagamon witnessed the heaviest turnout of visitors never seen before in this hilly tourism spot. By Monday all the foreign paragliders would have left the country, said the organisers of the championship.
Due to the heavy public turnout on Sunday, the traffic on Erattupetta and Elappara route could be restored only by 7 p.m. though the championship ended abruptly by 2 p.m. due to a heavy downpour followed by fog which covered the entire area.
Of the two competitions — Spot landing and Cross country — the latter could not be held due to bad weather on Sunday.
In the spot-landing competition, David Arufat of Switzerland won the coveted prize by breaking an egg on the marked spot at Murphy school ground at Enthayar, a distance of nearly five km from Wagamon.
This year's paragliding championship, held for the fourth consecutive year at Suicide Point in Wagamon, witnessed the highest turnout of visitors and the largest number of participants in indicating that it could become the favourite for such championships in the future. “Considering the public turnout, the speciality of the location and the number of participants, Wagamon is the best location in Asia to hold the paragliding championship,'' said Gopavarma, chairman of Adventure Sports and the Sustainable Tourism Academy (ASSTA), one of the organisers of the championship.
The ASSTA, in association with the Wagamon Destination Council formed by the District Tourism Promotion Council and the Tourism Department organised this year’s championship named ‘Kerala Paragliding Grand Prix-09’.
Mr. Varma said there were tremendous opportunities for an adventure tourism centre in Kerala — clubbing water sports, terrain sports and aero sports. Just as Wagamon has been identified for paragliding, the locations for other adventure sports should also be identified and promoted, he said. He added that this could be achieved by a private-public participation that serves to protect the environment.
The ASSTA was instrumental in identifying Wagamon and holding the paragliding championship. According to DTPC secretary M. Rajesh, the public turnout was the heaviest and is a pointer that tourism can be developed in Wagamon by promoting adventure sports without affecting grassland ecology.
Paragliders from Nepal, Russia, U.S., France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, New Zealand, Thailand, Brazil and Hungary participated in the championship.
Minister for Home and Tourism Kodiyeri Balakrishnan has said that the paragliding championship in Wagamon shouldl get the same kind of popularity and recognition as that of the Alappuzha boat race.
Giving away the cash prize to the winners of the paragliding championship at Enthayar, the finishing point for the spot-landing competition, the minister said a meeting will be convened in a month's period to take the nest step to popularise paragliding in Wagamon and promoting adventure sports in other locations.
He said that adventure sports are a trademark to promote tourism and the paragliding championship held at Wagamon endorsed this. Direction will be given to the tourism department to promote the international championship to be held in the next season, he said.