The world’s top dragon boat competition will ditch Hong Kong in favour of Thailand next year due to the city’s stringent coronavirus rules, organisers announced on Saturday.

Hong Kong is trying to reboot its pandemic-hit sports scene even as it continues to follow a loose version of China’s zero-Covid strategy, which quashes outbreaks with travel curbs and quarantine.

tuen ng dragon boat
Dragon boats. File photo: GovHK.

The 2023 World Dragon Boat Racing Championships became the latest international sports event to abandon the Chinese city, according to the Hong Kong China Dragon Boat Association.

“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 event scheduled for next August will instead be held in Pattaya, Thailand, the International Dragon Boat Federation confirmed.

The news comes a day after the Hong Kong Marathon and the Oxfam Trailwalker events separately announced their cancellation.

Marathon organisers said they had not received government approval with just two months left before the race, which did not leave enough time for preparations.

Last year’s marathon was held in October after a months-long delay and featured no overseas competitors, while in 2020 the event was called off by the government with two weeks’ notice.

Organisers of the Oxfam Trailwalker also said their event could not be held even though they offered to cap the number of participants at 1,600.

“The government believes that there remains a large number of people involved in the event,” organisers said on Facebook.

Earlier this month, Hong Kong’s top badminton tournament was also cancelled after the government insisted that overseas players be kept in an isolation bubble.

Hong Kong officials say some foreign competitors have agreed to coronavirus restrictions, citing the Hong Kong Masters snooker tournament next month and the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens in November.

Rugby Sevens 2019
Hong Kong Sevens 2019. Photo: GovHK.

Those events will be run using a Beijing Olympics-style “closed loop” system, in which overseas players are kept in isolation from the community, restricted to hotels and sports venues.

The typically rowdy fans at the Rugby Sevens will be allowed to drink but not eat in the stands, Hong Kong’s sports commissioner has said.

On Friday, Hong Kong authorities gave the green light to an annual cross-harbour swimming race, though only 1,500 participants will be allowed to join.

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