By Neou Vannarin
Oct 06, 2013
(Hong Kong) An annual swimming competition crossing Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor, the New World Harbor Race held this morning saw its largest number of participants ever, but pollution is still a major concern for swimmers, participants said.
At least 2,000 swimmers aged between 12 and 78 years old registered for this morning’s race, compared to only 1,800 swimmers last year, according to a press release from the event’s organizer, the Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association.
Staring at the bright sea and anxiously waiting for her daughter to arrive at the finish line, Susana Lai said the preparations for the race had improved from previous years, the arrival area was larger and safer, the water was cleaner, and there were more participants.
“This is year is better. The arrival point is well prepared and safer compared to last year,” said a 42 year-old mother. “The water looks cleaner. Last year, my daughter got diarrhea and saw a doctor soon after her swimming.”
The swimming competition was established as the Cross-Harbor Race in 1906, but suspended for 32 years starting in 1979 due topolluted water, which caused health problems for swimmers. It was revived in 2011 under a new name.
“Three years ago, I was sick and saw a doctor after my swimming competition,” said one of the women contestants Sandy Chung, who has participated in the race every year since its revival to try to draw more public attention to the issue of water pollution in Hong Kong.
“I joined this swimming competition because of the pollution. When I was young, I took boats to study in Hong Kong Island every day. The water was polluted,” said the 42-year-old contestant. “I want people to stop throwing rubbish into the water.”
She added that the pollution seems to be improving every year and she hopes there will be even more participants in next year’s race.
“Now the water is cleaner and you cannot see any rubbish in the sea,” she said.
However, a 32-year-old English teacher, Claire Brown, who watched this morning’s competition from the sidelines, said she still had doubts about the cleanliness of the water and she would rather not swim in Victoria Harbor.
“I would not swim in this water, it looks so dirty,” said Ms Brown. “I work near the harbor and walk near it every day. I saw a lot of rubbish floating around and a lot of flies. The government should keep the harbor cleaner.”
Despites pollution concerns, thousands of spectators were waiting on the banks of Quarry Bay Park, the finishing point, for the swimmers to arrive.
Participants in the race swam over 1.8 km across the harbor from Sam Ka Tsuen Public Pier in Lei Yue Mun to the finishing point at Sai Wan Ho Harbor Park Public Pier in Quarry Bay Park.
The course was divided into several different categories including an international group. German swimmer Christian Reichert and Brazilian swimmer Poliana Okimoto had the fastest men’s and women’s times, respectively.
Not all the contestants were aiming for the top prize. James Pon, a 60 year-old grandfather, said he was happy just to take part in the competition and keep fit.
“I like swimming. I have been swimming since I was ten years old. This year, it makes a good memory for me since it is my sixtieth birthday” said Mr Pon. “I join it for fun. It is good to be healthy and keep exercising.”