International Balloon Meet
The International Balloon Meet in Velikiye Luki is not only a fascinating and spectacular event held annually, but also a significant sporting event included into the integrated sports calendar of Russia's Ministry of Sports. The Balloon Meet involves the Russian Hot Air Balloon Championship, a highly regarded competition for Russian pilots. Foreign pilots can contend for the Cup of Friendship, along with their Russian peers. Male pilots, who participated in the Meet at least ten times, compete for the Cup of Velikiye Luki, whereas female pilots claim the Cup of Princess Olga, the patroness saint of the Pskov Region. There is a Key Grab competition beyond the sports program. Besides, balloonists always bring joy to spectators with a mass ascension of hot air balloons from the Velikiye Luki Fortress, a hot air balloon night glow and flights over the city.
The first International Balloon Meet took place in 1996. In 2011, Gazprom was named as a general sponsor of the event. This has expanded the scope and scale of the Meet: increasing the number of participants and participating regions and countries, as well as enhancing the prestige of the competition in the sports community and the media.
The organizers of the Meet are the Pskov Region's administration and the Velikiye Luki city authorities. The Championship of Russia is sanctioned by the Balloon Federation of Russia.