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Positive Local Response To Gliding Grand Prix

PRESS RELEASE – 13/10/06

Positive Local Response To Gliding Grand Prix

Plans for the New Zealand Gliding Grand Prix in Omarama were met with a positive response from local residents at a public meeting in the township last night (Wednesday).

The small gathering, that included local business owners, landowners and tourism operators, listened as world-renowned gliding instructor Gavin Wills outlined details of the new Grand Prix glider racing format. He explained why the sport is now at a stage where it can be presented in a way that’s appealing to the general public thanks to the recent rule changes allowing competitors to race head-to-head in real time as opposed to against the clock. “It’s the difference between five and one day cricket,” he said. “One is infinitely more exciting than the other!”

Mr Wills, who is responsible for setting the race courses for the Grand Prix, said he believed gliding will become one of the great gladiator sports of this century as people become more familiar with it and can relate more to the concept of flight.

“We’ve been on the land for millions of years, on the ocean for tens of thousands of years but only in the air for just over a hundred years. As more and more people take to the air, the more they will be able to identify with the skill and daring of these pilots. Imagine seeing these pilots ripping along the Ben Ohau Range at over 100 knots (200kph), just a couple of wing spans from the rocks and you can see why they are some of the most skilled athletes in the world.”

Omarama residents also learned how they could be involved in the event, the potential benefits and fundraising opportunities the extra work will generate. Questions raised included the matter of cashflow with no ATM present in the town. Local businessman, Tony Gloag of Buscot Station Backpackers said it was a source of great embarrassment to the town that there was no ATM.

“People are astounded we don’t have an ATM here when you consider the major throughput of tourists Omarama has,” he said. “The second most frequent question I get asked after “where can I watch sheep shearing’” is “where can I get cash out?” Those present were unanimous in their agreement that they hoped the Grand Prix would raise the impetus for a bank to supply an ATM.

Other questions raised were the impact of the Grand Prix to other aircraft users and safety issues. Peter Newport, Grand Prix Director, replied that airfield disruption will be kept to a minimum and that gliding had a strong safety culture with definitive procedures in place to ensure pilot and spectator safety at all times.

Also raised was the matter of accommodation with limited beds available in Omarama, where were the 15,000 spectators going to stay? Peter Newport replied that many would make a day trip from centres such as Wanaka, Queenstown and Timaru but steps were in place to market accommodation in Twizel, Tekapo and Kurow as well as in the larger centres further airfield.

The New Zealand Gliding Grand Prix takes place from 27-29 January 2006. Advance tickets go on sale on November 1 and are $30 for adults and $70 for families (two adults and three children). Visit for further information.


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