HONG KONG, June 17 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of paddlers from home and abroad joined eight dragon boat regattas at tourist spots across Hong Kong on Wednesday, turning the traditional summertime festival sport into a dragon boat racing "World Cup".
Dragon boat racing is the main activity of Chinese traditional Duan Wu Festival, known as Dragon Boat Festival to commemorate the death of a well-loved statesman and poet who lived in the Warring States period over 2,000 years ago.
As the most colorful spectacle of the traditional Chinese festival, dragon boat regattas were held in waterfront spots in eight districts including Sha Tin, Tai Po and Aberdeen.
Unlike the more traditional races in Tai Po or Sha Tin, the regatta and relating activities in Stanley was more like a carnival.
The Stanley International Dragon Boat Championships, held for over four decades, featured the largest one in scale, with more than 4,000 paddlers, or over 130 teams this year from various countries and regions. Contestants came from even as far as the United Arab Emirates.
The competition began with the traditional eye-dotting ceremony, to awaken the spirit of the 'dragon' and get the dragon boats blessed before races as it was believed.
Dragon boat racers rowed in unison to beating drums and gongs on boats decked with flags during the regattas.
Clad in colorful costumes, over 100,000 people went to cheer for the paddlers, the organizer said.
Organizers have also vowed for years to turn the annual regatta into a benchmark competition that go truly international.
"We have brought in fiberglass dragon boats and trained racers this year, as an effort to develop dragon boat racing into an international sports event," said Alson Wong, the Chairman of the organizing committee.
The Tourism Board of Hong Kong has long wanted to make the dragon boat races a major event in the annual tourism and sporting calendar.
The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival, the biggest event in summer promoted by the board, will be held from July 23 to 25 alongside the beautiful Victoria Harbor.
The three-day bash will feature the Hong Kong International Dragon Boat Races with over 130 local and international teams competing in different categories.