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Swimmers back in water as Hong Kong resumes iconic cross harbor race after 33 year break
HONG KONG (AP) ' Hundreds of swimmers took part Sunday in a new version of Hong Kong's iconic harbor race, which had been suspended for 33 years because of concerns about water pollution in one of the world's most beautiful ports.
In calm seas and under partly cloudy skies, the swimmers negotiated the 1.8 kilometer (1.1 mile) course linking Lei Yue Mun in Kowloon to Quarry Bay on Hong Kong island. Hundreds of spectators cheered them on at the finish line.
"I had heard everything about the cross-harbor race," 22-year-old David Wong said after completing the competition. "It was wonderful having the chance to finally participate in it."
The cross-harbor race was first held in 1906, when Hong Kong was still a British colony, and suspended after the 1978 race ' 19 years before it reverted to Chinese control ' because of the pollution concerns.
This year's event was held several kilometers (miles) east of the traditional Victoria Harbor venue ' set off by Hong Kong island's towering skyscrapers and steeply rising Victoria Peak ' in an area thought to be relatively free of bacterial and other pollutants.
In recent years, Hong Kong has been engaged in a major effort to clean the harbor, putting special emphasis on controlling raw sewage. However, some concerns about water quality do remain.
Swimmers were pleased with conditions for the event.
"It was a lot cleaner than I thought it would be," said information technology manager Martin Wray, 47, a 19-year Hong Kong resident originally from Canada.
"There was no visible rubbish," said paralegal Davis Hui, 27. "And there were hardly any waves at all."