A Magical Night that Enchanted Banjaluka

The World Rafting Championship in R-4 was opened with spectacular fireworks at the Kastel Fortress, which will be held from tomorrow to July 1st on the Vrbas river in Banjaluka and the river Tara in Foča. The Championship was officially opened by the Serb member of the Presidency of BiH, Milorad Dodik. The rafting flame was lit by the famous basketball player Sladjana Golić.

– We are doing responsible work to preserve peace and stability, and what the rafter community has done is a real feat. Cooperation between people and nations can always give the best that this example shows. We must all be proud of Banja Luka, Republika Srpska and the Rafting Club Kanjon. All that is left for me is to declare the World Rafting Championship open and wish all the participants good luck and success – said Dodik.

During the 90-minute program, a large number of spectators who gathered on the banks of the Vrbas, but also those who watched the live broadcast via RTRS, had the opportunity to see numerous surprises prepared by the technical organiser of the Championship Rafting Club Kanjon. Among other things, a platform with all the flags of the participating countries was set up on the river Vrbas, all 22 of them, and above the Vrbas riverbed there were 12 ropes with fish in the colors of the flags of the participating countries. The guest of the opening ceremony was the biggest music star of Banjaluka and the representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina at the Eurovision Song Contest, Marija Šestić.

The technical organiser of the IRF World Championship in R-4 is the Rafting Club Kanjon. The Director of the race on the World Championship, Aleksandar Pastir, believes that the competition will run smoothly.

– Welcome to the opening of the 19th IRF World Championship. Welcome to Banjaluka and welcome to our Vrbas. We are proud that for the second time Rafting Club Kanjon has the pleasure to organise the World Rafting Championship, for the first time in R-4 category and we are glad to say that by organising this championship we are the only ones in the world to organise rafting competitions at all levels and in all categories. In addition to two World Championships, our name as the organiser was written on three European Championships, two World Cups, 15 European Cups and a large number of national competitions. Doing this job means spending most of your time in the organisation and everything it brings with it. So I want to take this opportunity and sincerely thank my family, friends, all the members of the Rafting Club Kanjon, who are ultimately members of my family, and who support me and therefore make sacrifices, and without their support all this wouldn’t be possible. And everyone always asks me why I am doing all this and what the motive is – my motive is all of you. I am especially proud of the support of the City of Banjaluka and the Government of Republika Srpska, which made it possible to fulfill the dream we have been dreaming of for years. That is the night trail in the Tijesno canyon. Vrbas and Tara deserve all the best epithets they have received all these previous years, and which we still hear from our competitors and tourists when they see our rivers. I want to greet all the members of the club, volunteers, organizers who worked day and night. We owe gratitude to all IRF officials for their trust in our organisation, and I think we have fully justified that trust. I invite you to visit the Vrbas canyon for the next three days, support our competitors and attend the demonstration of skills from some of the best rafting teams in the world – said Aleksandar Pastir.

Great help in organising this event was provided by USAID.

– It is a great privilege to be here with you and to share the excitement of another success story of the tourism sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina, this time launched by the wild water rafting community. Congratulations to all who participated in organizing this globally important event. USAID has built a lot of partnerships to support the World Rafting Championship. I would like to thank Aleksandar Pastir for being a true champion behind today’s event. We are aware about the importance of international sporting events that helps the promotion of destinations around the world. Bosnia and Herzegovina has much to offer in this area with its recognizable natural resources. I would like to express our gratitude to the International Rafting Federation, which has done more than usual to promote rivers and tourism of Bosnia and Herzegovina – said the Director of Economic Development Office of the USAID/BIH Karl Wurster.

The president of the International Rafting Federation Joseph Willis Jones stated that the last few years behind the entire sport world, including rafting, are extremely difficult due to the pandemic of the corona virus.

– The last IRF World Championship was held in Australia in 2019. The pandemic of the corona virus forced us to cancel the last two World Championships and made it difficult to hold any rafting competition. On behalf of the International Rafting Federation (IRF), I take this opportunity to thank everyone in Banjaluka for hosting the IRF 2022 World Championship in Rafting. Special thanks to Aleksandar Pastir, our friends at Rafting Club Kanjon and Goran Lolić and his team. I would like to thank the IRF officials at this event who volunteered and invested their time and energy in making this event a great success. Thanks to all the great athletes that gathered here. I wish everyone the best of luck and success in the incoming days. You are all winners. Our sport is a metaphor for what it means to be human. It drives the best in people and I am proud to be a part of such activities. The IRF originated from an ogranization created at the end of the Cold War. It had a idea of uniting people in peace by rafting. Now more than ever, our beautiful sport must step forward and regain its vital role in bringing people together in these dangerous times. More important than winning medals and recognition is winning friends. For these reasons, I declare that this is the World Rafting Championship – The World Championship of Peace and Friendship – said Joseph Willis Jones, who wished good luck to all competitors in the championship.

The mayor of Banjaluka, Draško Stanivuković, said that he was proud that the largest city in Srpska, along with Foča, was the host of this great competition.

– We announced this biggest, most spectacular opening of the World Rafting Championship in Banjaluka and we welcome it. Today, we can all be proud to host something that is not local, Balkan or European, but world-class. From the very beginning, the city of Banjaluka has invested a lot in the organisation of the event. This is of great importance for our city. To all of you who are here, I want you to feel comfortable in the most beautiful city, in a city that has a soul, that knows what sport is, where the guests are the biggest stars of the sport world. In a city that is synonymous with nature and the natural beauties. I hope we will be good hosts, we will certainly do our best. I am convinced that Banjaluka will continue to host such events in the future. Happy and proud is the city that has a river like this, people like this, but also guests like this. Banjaluka is not Banjaluka without Vrbas, nor can Vrbas be without Banjaluka – said Stanivuković.

The host of the second part of the championship will be Municipality of Foča and the last discipline of the World Championship will be Downhill, which is scheduled for June 1. It will take place on the Tara river.

– Dear athletes, tourist workers, dear guests. I cordially greet you from Foča. I am convinced that you will bring with you the best and deepest impressions from our Banjaluka and Foča. Also, I am convinced that the people of Banjaluka and Foča will be good hosts and that you willl spread the word about our well-known hospitality in your countries. I hope that you will remember these few days and that this great sports and tourism project will have mutual benefits on both Vrbas and Tara. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who in any way participated in the organisation of the Championship and contributed to Foča being visibly marked on the rafting map of the world. Rafting is probably the most popular trademark of Foča. It is the final product that connects other branches of tourism and something that will be the backbone of the development of our local community in the future, I wish all the competitors all the best in life and a lot of success during the championship – said the mayor of Foča, Milan Vukadinović.

Short movies about Rafael and Branka

During the opening of the World Championship, short films about Rafael Gallo and Branka Štulić were aired. Gallo, who passed away  last year, was the President of the World Rafting Organisation and a great friend of Rafting Club Kanjon and Banjaluka. Branka Štulić was the eternal captain of the women’s crew of the Rafting Club Kanjon. She tragically died at the European Championship in Val di Sole in Italy. On 10th of June, it will be 12 years since her death.

Participating countries

On the World Championship in rafting there are 61 teams from 22 countries. The participating countries are: Argentina, Australia, Brasil, Bulgaria, Canada, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Latvia, United States of America and Bosnia and Herzegovina.