Hong Kong revives harbour swim race after pollution ban

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Media captionThe race took place from Lei Yue Mun to Quarry Bay, east of the central harbour

Hong Kong has revived its iconic cross-harbour swim, suspended for 33 years because of pollution concerns.

Some 1,000 competitors took part in the 1.8km (1.1 mile) race just east of the world-famous Victoria Harbour.

The race was halted in 1978 as raw sewage and the detritus of sea traffic made the water unfit.

Some environmental groups warned there were still high bacteria levels but organisers insisted clean-up measures had made the water safer.

The annual race, which began in 1906 under British colonial rule, used to attract hundreds of swimmers and has been revived due to popular demand.

On Sunday the leading contestants took about 20 minutes to complete the course, which spanned the harbour from Lei Yue Mun on the Kowloon side to Hong Kong Island's Quarry Bay, an area thought freer of pollutants.

The race as won by 18-year-old Ling Tin-yu, a member of the Hong Kong swimming team.

The BBC's Annemarie Evans in Hong Kong says the city has worked to improve the quality of the water and still has some way to go, although the swimmers on Sunday said the water felt clean.

The youngest swimmers were 12 years old, the oldest a 68-year-old man.

One swimmer, Taisuke Takase, said: "The weather was good, the water quality wasn't so bad, a bit salty. I enjoyed it."

Australian lawyer Ian Polson, 67, took part in the race in the early 1970s. "You dived in and were met by this film of diesel oil and you were surrounded by dead fish," he said. "I didn't have any problems with the water quality today," he said.

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