The fun-packed Matilda Sedan Chair Race and Bazaar is on today. An array of colourful sedan chair teams with energetic runners dressed in wacky costumes will wow spectators at The Peak.
Sedan chairs have played an important part in Hong Kong's history. During the 1800s, they were the private transport of the rich - many of whom lived on The Peak.
When the Matilda International Hospital opened in 1907, sedan chairs were used to transport patients from the Peak Tram terminus to the hospital.
The race, which has been going on for 30 years, has become an important charity event. It raises funds for needy causes - primarily lesser-known charities which do not receive grants from the Community Chest, Jockey Club or the government. About $34 million has been donated to more than 100 Hong Kong charities since the first sedan race.
Today's sedan chair race, which starts at 10am at Matilda International Hospital, will see 50 teams battle to win a variety of prizes. Teams will be awarded prizes for best decorations, entertainment, encouragement, spirit and fundraising.
Each team consists of eight runners who will carry a sedan chair around Mt Kellet. Sitting in the chair will be one passenger who must be over 18 years of age and 'alive and human', according to race rules.
'In the past, we had a team put a cat in the sedan chair. Another year, the Hong Kong University team had a skeleton as the passenger. So we decided that the passenger must be alive and human,' said Eleanor Sackett, executive director of the race.
Ladies and school teams are allowed to carry a dummy weighing no less than 11kg.
The race is run over two courses: The A course is 3.2km, while the less demanding B course is 2.1km.
Many teams running the B course don colourful costumes and decorate their sedan chairs to compete for the fun award.
In previous races, the Hong Kong Ladies Hash House Harriers disguised themselves as characters from the animated film Finding Nemo, while the male runners of the Swiss Association have dressed up as ballerinas.
'The atmosphere in the morning is electric. Some teams will do a rehearsal at the last minute before they perform songs and dances in front of the judges,' said Ms Sackett.
'For some people, it'll be the first time that they've dressed up. It's fun and the participants are doing it as a team. They know that at the end of the day their effort - whether it's to run very fast or to take part in dancing and decorating - is all for a good cause.'
John Gibson, a 16-year-old student from Island School, will participate in his second sedan chair race today. 'It's a really good opportunity for anyone up for a challenge,' he said.
'It's hard, but rewarding. Even though it's just running, you learn about team-building. Everyone has to help each other to support the chair. Even if you don't win, it's still an interesting experience.'
After the sedan chair race, a bazaar will be held under the theme of 'what a wonderful world'. The colourful family event will feature a wide range of games, crafts and food stalls as well as live musical performances from professional and school bands from noon to 4pm.
For more information, call 2849 6938 or visit www.sedanchairace.org