Harbour Swim Scandal – Triumphs and Tears behind 2,500 swimmers

Thousands of swimmers have taken part in the iconic Hong Kong harbour race this year.

The race was suspended for 33 years and reintroduced in 2011 because of prior concerns on water pollution.

This year’s race was held several kilometres east of Victoria Harbour. It was set besides the towering skyscrapers and The Peak, in an area claimed to be free of harmful bacterial and pollutants.

race map1On Oct 18 at 8.30pm, thousands of swimmers began splashing their way in the 1.5 kilometre (1 mile) course connecting from Lei Yue Mun in Kowloon to Quarry Bay on Hong Kong island.


Since 2009, Hong Kong has been engaging in a major effort to clean the harbour, putting particular emphasis on controlling the infusion of raw sewage into the sea.


Despite government’s attempt at improving water quality, concerns are still being raised by local and international environmental organizations such as Green Council and International Coastal Cleanup.

‘’Remember to use extra shampoo and shower jel, or else the layer of greasy diesel from ships won’t come off. ’’ says swimmer John Cheung as he reminded his teenage son to take caution.

A Honored Challenge that Breaks People Free

To conquer physical and mental limitation by taking part in a challenging race is not a sole option for the adults. Youngster Mak Ho Yan received much honour and attention at the race, becoming the youngest swimmer to finish the annual Cross Harbour Race.


Mak, who just turned 12, was among the 2,500 participants who swam from Lei Yue Mun Sam Ka Tsuen Public Pier to Quarry Bay Park Public Pier yesterday.

Although young Mak has been swimming since 6 years old, she was glad of the compulsory tow float safety device that helped her to float against the rampant waves.

This is just the beginning. My dream is to represent Hong Kong as a world class swimmer at the Olympics! ’’ said Mak. She trains seven days a week, four hours a day.

On the opposite side of the age scale, Leung Yuen-ying, the eldest swimmer at the age of 76, completed the race with ease.

At the international scene, swimmers Allan Do Carmo and Ana Marcela Cunhawho had come from Brazil, swept up trophies in the International men’s and women’s race.

Besides top swimmers competing, swimmers with physical disabilities also joined the race and showed their grit and resilience in the waves.


Chow had surgery to remove a bone tumour when he was 13.  I am a living testimony and I hope to tell the world that if you really want to achieve something, nothing can stop you. says Chow with tears in his eyes.

Hundreds of Disappointed Swimmers

But it wasn’t all good news. Hundreds of swimmers complained that they were disqualified after starting the race before the starting pistol were fired. Organizer’s spokesperson – Maria Cheng says swimmers should take full responsibilities for their own mistakes.


Among the swimmers who got disqualified – Fiona Chan On-yi who crossed the finish line first in the Women’s Open Race said the scene were very chaotic. ’’

There were so many groups starting together and everyone was standing over the starting line.’’ said Chan, who was the champion in the same category last year.

Dozens of swimmers are vowing to boycott the race and file official complaints against the organizer.