The first race day of this years Macao International Dragon Boat Races was held yesterday with standard body temperature detection installed, but no space allocated for social distancing in the athlete preparation area. Athletes and onlookers told the Times that the first major event of the year had energized the public after months of reduced social activity.The Nam Van Lake Nautical Center was divided into several sections, namely the business area, the spectator stands and the athlete area. Each area has only one entrance. Upon passing an entrance, all athletes and spectators had to present their Green Macau Health Code and have their body temperature measured.Previously, the Sports Bureau (ID), citing advice from the Health Bureau, announced that all people attending the event, including spectators and athletes, must wear a facemask at all times, except for athletes who are racing.However, viewing the event yesterday, which took place all afternoon, under a baking sun that eclipsed for about an hour, the Times observed that only a few people were following the IDs request.The number of seats has been reduced to about 2,000, half the number from last year. Although spectators were encouraged to keep an arms distance apart, the social distancing was only lightly enforced.The ID seemed to care more about the wellbeing of journalists, as every other seat in the media area was cordoned off, enforcing social distancing for journalists.The ID has also stated that this year fewer teams would be able to participate in the races due to a capping as part of the health measures. The athletes waiting area, however, did not reflect that requirement because the same amount of space was allotted to host waiting athletes. Although less packed than last year, the area was still crowded.Furthermore, at the preparation area, athletes were required to sit shoulder to shoulder as if they were already on the boat.Yesterday, the Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Center issued a statement to remind the general public to avoid gathering in groups even when conducting sporting events.Despite the conditions, athletes, spectators and stall operators said they were satisfied with the hosting of the dragon boat races despite the Covid-19 pandemic still being severe in many places. Many have described the reduced social activity of the past four months as demoralizing. Members of the public told the Times yesterday that seeing the races going ahead had energized the city.Linda Chen, Vice Chairperson and Chief Operating Officer of Wynn Macau Ltd., who was present at the athlete rest area to show support to the companys team, shares this view.She said that it was only due to many peoples efforts that this year can see the races go ahead as in previous years, despite the Covid-19 pandemic. It is an unprecedented period, the executive stressed.Discussing the performance of the team, she said she was satisfied with the members diligence amid all the hardship faced. There has been limited time for practice, Chen said. The lake has been cordoned off for months in order to contain Covid-19, so they could not practice hands-on.Despite the challenges, our team members have kept practicing at home, Chen revealed. Some of them have even sacrificed time with their children to do training at home.The same strategy was also used by the University of Macau team, which won the title in the University Group. The teams coach Lei said that members were reminded to practice at home.The Marine and Water Bureau, the Municipal Affairs Bureau and the Macau Red Cross won the top three positions in the Public Entity Group.The Association of Macao Youth Development beat SJM Lotus A in the Womans 200m Category and Baa do Mar Amizade ended third place.Finally, Suncity Legend, SJM Golden Jubilee B and A took the top three places in 200m Open Category, respectively.
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