Dragon boat race splashes into Hanoi


Hanoi (AFP) - Thousands gathered around a Hanoi lake on Saturday to watch rowers in colourful costumes as they competed in the city's first traditional dragon boat race in decades.

The water sport is popular in rural parts of Vietnam but has not been held in the capital in recent memory.

Huge crowds cheered as 400 men and women, split into 27 teams, battled cold winds and paddled across a 600-metre course on Hanoi's West Lake in boats with ornately carved dragon heads.

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"We participated in this just for fun, the prize is not important at all," racer Lan, 42, told AFP, saying she only had four days to prepare for the competition.

Ly Ba Hai, a Hanoi resident who brought the whole family to watch, said it was the first time his children had seen the traditional sport.

"Both adults and children love this. The kids have never known what a dragon boat race is. So we all had fun here," he said.

Hanoi authorities say they want to expand the race regionally if Saturday's trial competition is deemed successful.

"It is hoped that this dragon boat race, being the first cultural event of the new lunar year, will help restore and develop national traditional sports... creating momentum for the development of water sports," said Duong Tri Thanh, CEO of Vietnam Airlines, which co-organised the event with the government.

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