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Feb. 21, 2019
9:16 pm


Atlanta, world dragon boaters heading to LLOP in September

By Jane Harrison
Dragon-headed boats and their handlers will invade Lake Lanier Olympic Park for eight straight days in September with back-to-back events. The day after local and Southeastern long-boaters beat their drums at the Atlanta Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival, international crews will hit the water to practice for the ICF Dragon Boat World Championships.
The Sept. 8 Atlanta festival traditionally brings about 1,000 participants and an equal number of spectators for a day of fun, recreational paddling, plus exotic and Southern cuisine, Asian music and dances. On Sept. 13, expect the food and Asian-inspired performances to continue, but a mood change will sweep over the water as well-trained athletes compete for awards on the world stage. The world event “will still have venders, food and entertainment in a fest-like” environment, said Robyn Lynch, Lake Lanier Olympic Park manager. “But the competition will be very serious. Some are Olympic athletes.”
Races feature 10- to 20-person boats outfitted with carved or plastic dragon heads and tails racing between 200 to 2,000 meters to the finish tower on the Olympic course. On each boat, a drummer beats out the rhythm and often yells encouragement to paddlers stroking in unison. Spectators can see strained shoulders heaving and hear drumbeats pounding as boats pass in front of the grandstands in the final 100 meters from the finish buoys.
Dragon boat racing, an ancient Asian tradition tracing back more than 2,000 years, has gained enormous worldwide popularity, expanding from its origin in China to Europe and North America. LLOP, site of the first ICF Dragon Boat world championship in the U.S. joins Russia, Italy, Poland and Hungary on the world map of ICF hosts.
Gainesville Hall ’96, the LLOP governing body, has been preparing for about two years, since ICF gave Lake Lanier the nod for the 2018 races. Lynch said the organizing committee is working out transportation routes, training volunteers, and planning how to feed about 1,000 athletes and hundreds of volunteers. Teams will be staying in local hotels and eating catered lunches, she said.
The opening ceremony Sept. 12 at LLOP will feature a parade of nations and brief greetings from ICF and local officials. Food truck dining and entertainment follow. Lynch declined to elaborate on the entertainment. “It’s a surprise!” she remarked. There is no cost to attend either the opening ceremony or competition. Parking is $10 daily, with multi-day passes available.

ICF Dragon Boat World Championships Schedule
• Sept. 9-11: Team Arrivals/Practice
• Sept. 12: 6 p.m. Opening Ceremony, Lake Lanier Olympic Park
• Sept. 13: 500 Meter qualifying
• Sep. 14: 500 Meter finals, 200 meter qualifying
• Sept. 15: 200 Meter finals
• Sept. 16: 2000 Meter finals, closing ceremony

‘Legacy Continues’ party to celebrate USA dragon boaters

An evening combining craft beer, pop rock, and food with a chance to mingle with high achieving athletes is coming to the Brenau University Amphitheatre July 21. The event, entitled “The Legacy Continues,” celebrates Team USA Dragon Boat hopefuls trying out for seats on National Team boats competing in the ICF Dragon Boat World Championships Sept. 13-16 at Lake Lanier Olympic Park.
The Fly Betty Band, popular for churning out high energy dance cover tunes, will set the tone for the casual outdoor fundraiser organized by Gainesville Hall ’96. The suds will flow from Tap It, a Gainesville micro brew pub. Brenau University is filling the plates.
The celebration honors 160 athletes in the heat of competition for a chance to represent the U.S. in the World Championships. “They are our honored guests,” said Robyn Lynch, Lake Lanier Olympic Park manager. Attendees can meet national team aspirants, snap photos with them, and encourage them toward their dream, Lynch said.
GH ’96 hopes the Legacy night will raise $100,000 to help host about a thousand participants and 10,000 spectators expected in three days of long-boat racing in September. The organization that helped bring Olympic paddling and rowing to Lake Lanier in 1996 has budgeted $600,000 for what it describes as the biggest sporting event on the lake since the Olympics.
Lynch said funds raised at the Brenau party will go toward medical and security needs, plus other necessities. Sponsors are contributing about $200,000. More funds are expected from the resale of 38 10- and 20-person dragon boats made and bought specifically for the world event. The boats cost $6,000 to $8,000 each. Half have already been sold, Lynch said.
Party organizers choose Brenau for the fundraiser because Team USA hopefuls will be staying there for a team camp beginning July 19. Competitors will know if they made the cut by camp’s end July 22. Local paddlers are among the contenders.
The party offers “a great opportunity for people to come have their photo taken with Team USA and congratulate them for their efforts in bringing the world championships” to Lanier, Lynch said. Dress for a hot summer evening, Lynch said. It’s very casual … wear shorts.” 

The Legacy Continues Party
  • When: 6-10 p.m. July 21
  • Where: Brenau University Amphitheatre, 500 Washington St., SE, Gainesville
  • Tickets: $30 Individuals; $10 kids; $400 table for 8. Individual 
  • ticket holders can bring their own chairs. Table tickets include food tickets.
  • Advance tickets: Email Robyn Lynch at

Posted online 6/29/18
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