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Feature: Hong Kong's top dragon boat race ever hotter with record turnout
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09:40, June 09, 2008

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· The Dragon Boat Festival
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Thousands of local residents and visitors swarmed the Stanley Beach on the southern tip of the Hong Kong Island on Sunday for a glimpse of a fancy dragon boat race, a popular celebration for the Tuen Ng Festival.

More than 230 teams comprising a total of 4,000 paddlers, including both Chinese and foreigners, were competing in the Stanley International Dragon Boat Championships. Organizers said it was a record turnout for the event with a history of 41 years.

"We have worked especially hard this year to improve the event for both paddlers and spectators. It's great to see so many people taking part," said Alson Wong, chairman of the Stanley Residents Association, which has been organizing the event for decades.

Tuen Ng Festival, alternatively known as Dragon boat Festival for one of the major traditional celebrations on the day, is widely celebrated in China, including the mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, as well as in some Asian countries.

The festival, mostly recognized as commemorating ancient Chinese poet Qu Yuan falls on the fifth day of the fifth month on the Chinese calendar, which is June 8 this year. Traditional celebrations include preparing and eating "zongzi", a pyramid- shaped dumpling made of glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves, and racing dragon boats

Many of the local residents in Hong Kong hurried to different waterfront places to see dragon boat races on Sunday, just one day after record rainstorms in the city.

Some of the paddlers, spectators and cheerleaders on Stanley Beach put on fancy clothes as they enjoyed the carnival on the cloudy summer day with sunny intervals, while others were obviously prepared for splashes of water in swimsuits or easy-to- dries. Vendor stalls were also set up to offer cool drinks and beer.

"Yes, it is a hot day. But we are hotter. I like dragon boat racing," said a man who dressed up like an Indian and gave his name as Nigel. He was from the United Kingdom and currently worked in Hong Kong.

A tourist who had traveled from the Chinese mainland said she was happy to see a truly international dragon boat race and that she was surprised to see so many westerners participating in the event.

Organizers said they expected the celebrations to continue well into the night at the "big street party" as Monday will be a public holiday.

At Sha Tin in the New Territories, people also staged dragon boat racing event, whereas in Saigon, participators of the race imitated the Olympic torch relay.

Hong Kong, one of the co-host cities of the Beijing Olympics, will host the equestrian events in August. One of the legs of torch relay in the city were carried out on a dragon boat, a unique feature never seen before in the Olympic history.

The Hong Kong Economic and Trade office in Tokyo of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government also sponsored a dragon boat racing event held on May 31, June 1 and June 7-8 in Yokohama, Japan.

The event attracted 189 teams and the highlight of the matches was the Hong Kong Cup, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government said Sunday.

Source: Xinhua

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