World's top dragon boat competition ditches Hong Kong over Covid restrictions
The most prestigious dragon boat race in the world will go to Thailand instead of Hong Kong the following year, according to the competition's organisers, who made the announcement on Saturday.
While continuing to adhere to a loose interpretation of China's zero-Covid strategy, which suppresses outbreaks via travel restrictions and quarantines, Hong Kong is attempting to revive its pandemic-devastated sports sector.
According to the Hong Kong China Dragon Boat Association, the 2023 World Dragon Boat Racing Championships are the newest international sporting event to leave the Chinese metropolis.
"Hong Kong's current quarantine and isolation arrangements for visitors are still more stringent than that of other countries," the group wrote on Facebook.
The International Dragon Boat Federation has stated that the event that was originally set for next August will now take place in Pattaya, Thailand.
The announcement comes a day after separate cancellation announcements from the Oxfam Trailwalker and the Hong Kong Marathon.
With only two months until the race, the marathon organisers claimed there was not enough time for preparations because they had not yet secured government sanction.
No foreign runners competed in the marathon last year, which was conducted in October after a months-long delay; in contrast, the government cancelled the marathon in 2020 with two weeks' notice.
The Oxfam Trailwalker organisers also stated that their event could not go on as planned, despite their commitment to cap registration at 1,600 people.
Organizers posted on Facebook that "the government believes that there are still a significant number of persons involved in the event."
The government requested that foreign players be kept in an isolation bubble, which led to the cancellation of Hong Kong's main badminton competition earlier this month.
Using the upcoming Hong Kong Masters snooker competition and the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens in November as examples, Hong Kong officials claim that some overseas athletes have consented to coronavirus limitations.
The administration of those events will follow a "closed loop" Beijing Olympics-style model, in which foreign athletes are segregated from the general public and confined to hotels and sporting venues.
The normally boisterous Rugby Sevens attendees will be permitted to drink but not to eat in the stands, according to Hong Kong's sports commissioner.
The annual cross-harbour swimming event was given the go-ahead by Hong Kong officials on Friday, but only 1,500 people will be able to take part.