LAKE LANIER—AUGUST 2018—Georgia’s Lake Lanier Olympic Park (LLOP), 45 minutes northeast of downtown Atlanta, will host the International Canoe Federation (ICF) Dragon Boat World Championships, September 12-16. This is the first time the world tournament will be held in the United States. 1,500 athletes from over 25 countries–including the United States, France, Germany, China, Japan, and Italy–will gather to compete in traditional canoes, adorned with dragon’s heads and tails, while also celebrating the cultural heritage of this deeply symbolic Asian heritage event.
The grand opening ceremony takes center stage September 12, with prized Elton John Tribute performer, Craig A. Meyer and several other dazzling cultural performances.
The next day, it’s off to the races as the dragon boats hit Lake Lanier Olympic Park’s prized flat waterway. There are two standard sized boats—one holds twenty paddlers, a steersman and a drummer, the other holds ten paddlers, a steersman and a drummer. The boats were manufactured in China specifically for the World Championships. Spectators are in for a treat as they watch international athletes fiercely paddle these spectacular canoes, dressed with brightly colored dragon heads, down the 3,000-meter naturally flowing straightaway.
With its’ over 2,000-year-old roots in Chinese lore, Dragon Boat racing is now a global phenomenon, with an estimated 72.5 million people paddling these crafts around the world, with a 22% increase in participation each year.
Team USA has multiple teams competing and have trained at Lake Lanier Olympic Park for the last several months.
Enjoy traditional Chinese dances throughout the weekend at Lake Lanier Olympic Park. Credit: Lake Lanier Olympic Park
Although Dragon Boats originate from China, the championship will showcase various Asian ethnic groups in the greater Atlanta area. Visitors can indulge in a variety of Asian cuisine, shop for cultural wares and watch Chinese dances and other cultural presentations throughout Lake Lanier Olympic Park.
Around 10,000 spectators are expected to attend the races and the subsequent festival at Lake Lanier Olympic Park. The estimated economic impact to the Gainesville area is predicted to be five million dollars.
Origin of Dragon Boat Racing
Dragon Boat Races date back 2,000 years and have origins in an ancient Chinese legend. As the story goes, there was a well-loved patriot poet named Qu Yuan who lived during the 4th century B.C. Although loved by the people, corrupt court officials banished Yuam. Yuam, unable to cope with his sorrow, drowned himself in the Mi Lo River. Local fishermen raced out in their boats in attempt to save him but arrived too late. In order to lure fish away from the body, they beat the water with their paddles and tossed rice dumplings into the river. The dragon boat races are a re-enactment of the attempt to save Qu Yuan and have become a major part of Chinese culture, representing patriotism and group integrity.
Robyn Lynch, Robyn@LakeLanierOlympicVenue.org
Lake Lanier Olympic Park