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Spectator Sports in Hong Kong
Dragon Boat Racing
One of the most fascinating spectator sports in Hong Kong is dragon boat racing. Derived from an ancient Chinese tradition, dragon boat racing originally took place during the Chinese Duen Ng Festival, which is annually celebrated in early summer.
In the 1970s, dragon boat racing was first introduced as an official competitive sport by Hong Kong. Since then, it has spread internationally and gained popularity around the globe. Usually, there are around 20 paddlers on one boat, paddling to the beat of drums. For races, boats are richly decorated with dragon heads and tails and other ornaments.
Until today, horse racing is the most popular sport to watch in Hong Kong. Races take place from September to May, usually on Wednesday evenings and Saturday or Sunday afternoons. Nearly 700 races are held annually on the two race tracks in Happy Valley and Sha Tin, and usually more than 40,000 people attend each race.
This popularity might not be entirely due to the people’s love for horses, though. Apart from the local lottery, betting on horse races is the only legal form of gambling in Hong Kong. And people put a lot of money into it: income from betting makes up more than 11% of the government’s tax revenues.
The traditional horse race on the third day of the Chinese New Year is a popular method to test one’s luck for the new year – and see if all the lucky charms actually work.
Another British sport which still enjoys great popularity in Hong Kong is rugby. The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union was founded in 1952 and remains very active in organizing and promoting the game in Hong Kong.
Currently, there are a total of 48 men’s and 10 women’s teams throughout the city, playing in two divisions. The biggest international tournament is the Hong Kong Sevens Tournament, held on the last weekend in March every year.
Despite some gloomy predictions, the handover to China in 1997 did not have any noticeable negative impacts on rugby in Hong Kong – on the contrary, there is now an increasing interest in rugby in Mainland China as well.
In international sporting events, such as the Olympics and the Asian Games, Hong Kong competes separately from the People’s Republic of China. So far, Hong Kong’s medal count includes three Olympic medals won at the Summer Olympics 1996, 2004 and 2012.
In 2008, Hong Kong got to share in China’s glory when it was host to the equestrian events at the Summer Olympics. The event was organized jointly by the Hong Kong National Olympic Committee and the People’s Republic of China.
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