The 41st annual hot air balloon festival at Château-d'Oex is dedicating this year’s event to the first round-the-world balloon flight that was completed 20 years ago.
The first circumnavigation of the globe in a hot air balloon was achieved by Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard and co-pilot Brian Jones in March 1999 when they touched down in Egypt following a 21-day flight. Seventeen years later, Piccard went on to repeat the feat in a solar powered aircraft called Solar Impulse that was designed to showcase the possibilities of environmentally-friendly transport.
Both men were present in western Switzerland on Saturday as the festival, which runs from January 26 to February 3external link, got underway. They will launch a new balloon race, the Piccard-Jones Eco Trophy, featuring balloons with cutting edge technology.
The week-long event in the ski resort in canton Vaud is the biggest of its kind in the Alps and traditionally provides a tourism boost for the region.
This year, 70 hot air balloons from 70 countries will take part in the festival. The annual event has regularly attracted over 10,000 visitors in recent years. The festival will end with the so-called Night Glow, sound, lights and fireworks show.