500 more to compete in harbour swim
This year's cross-harbour swim will be open to 1,500 participants, up from 1,000 when the event was revived last year after a 33-year break.
The Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association has also shortened the course between Lei Yue Mun and Sai Wan Ho from 1.8 kilometres to 1.5 kilometres.
David Chiu Chin-hung, from the association, said the shorter route would be easier for swimmers as it followed the water stream better. It would also enable older swimmers to take part in the October 21 event.
Chiu said 13 three-metre-high buoys would mark the route this time, after participants complained last year of swimming extra distances because the course was unclear.
Competitors who successfully completed last year's race would be given priority in entering; others would need to go through a time trial. Overseas swimmers who do not attend the trial will need confirmation from their national swimming federations to prove their ability.
Ronnie Wong Man-chiu, secretary of the association, said 50 more lifeguards - after last year's more than 100 - would be deployed to ensure swimmers' safety. 'I can assure participants that the ratio between swimmers and lifeguards will not be smaller than last year,' he said.
The public could also watch the race closer to the shore this year on Sam Ka Tsuen public pier and Quarry Bay Park promenade.
The event promises to be more exciting as it will be held jointly with the Asian Open Water Swimming Championships, a five-kilometre test for professional swimmers.
Previously held in Repulse Bay, Asian Open Water competitors will follow a longer route than cross-harbour participants, but will start and end at the same points. The two swimming events are a major undertaking by the Sports Commission.
The cross-harbour swim was halted in 1978 because of concerns about polluted water. The swimming association has been monitoring government figures on levels of E coli bacteria in the sea, and the water is now safe enough for swimmers, according to Wong.
Last year's cross-harbour swim saw 18-year-old John Ling Tin-yu beat 978 competitors overall, while 19-year-old Natasha Tang Wing-yung captured the women's title.