The Red Bull X-Alps is trying to get itself recognised as an “elite sporting event” by Austrian authorities so it can go ahead as planned in June, according to information sent out to pilots this week.
However, if they do not get that elite event accreditation by 28 April the race could be postponed until 25 July or even next year.
The information, which was sent to all Red Bull X-Alps athletes and has been seen by Cross Country, said the overall Covid situation was “pretty much the same” as a month ago and that, “Many countries are still in lockdown, vaccinations proceed quite slowly and numbers are still high.”
Organisers said they had identified several “hurdles” that need to be overcome for the race to happen as planned in June.
As well as the manageable issues around the race, Covid and safety, winning the “elite sport notation” presented a much more “significant” challenge. “One option is to be recognised as an elite sporting event (Spitzensport) like other professional sports such as soccer, skiing, golf etc.
“Normal sports events are currently forbidden. This means Red Bull X-Alps athletes need to be clearly recognised as the best of the best. The issue we face is that we are not organised in an association. We have therefore created a case, which is now in review in the governmental organisations. This actually looks quite promising and would allow athletes to be able to travel to Austria and participate in the race. But we have no decision yet!”
The Red Bull X-Alps is a private event, run by Austrian marketing company zooom and sponsored by Red Bull. As such, it is not sanctioned as a paragliding competition by the FAI (World Air Sports Association) and there is no officially sanctioned league of X-Alps pilots. Pilots apply to take part and are granted a place at the discretion of the race committee, a process which has at times faced criticism for its lack of transparency.
The “biggest issue” facing the competition however was listed as the complications around travel.
“This is currently the biggest issue, since it is very difficult to get either legal or governmental feedback from all countries and regions for athletes and organisation to travel from Austria to Germany, Switzerland, France, and so on.
“There’s basically no other race with any kind of situation like ours. Our Covid team is working on this issue and trying to find the right people and to understand how to get the permissions.”
The above had led the race committee to come up with several different scenarios. They include running the race as planned on 20 June this year, postponing it to a start date of 25 July this year, or, in a worst case scenario, postponing the whole event until June 2022.
Key dates in the planning are 28 April and 17 May. If organisers don’t have elite sport accreditation by 28 April the race could be postponed until July. If there is no clarity over travel and border crossings and no elite sport accreditation by 17 May, then it could be postponed until 2022.
The email added: “This is the tentative plan. We are still talking to all of our partners and some slight adjustment may still be necessary.”
It further added: “We fully understand that moving the start date is in no one’s interest and a huge struggle for all of us. We hugely appreciate your enthusiasm and motivation and urge you to stay positive. Our goal is still to make this the best Red Bull X-Alps ever, and worthy of all the races that have gone before.”
From a flying point of view, racing in the Alps in late July and August would be different to racing in June. Conditions are hotter on the ground, more stable in the air, and the days are already that little bit shorter. As well as that, pilots, supporters and team members will have booked time off work and been training towards a start date of June.