In unison, Ugandan and Chinese paddlers, following the rhythm of drum beats, raced to the finish line.
They were competing in Uganda’s third annual Dragon Boat Festival.
This year’s festival, held on Sunday at Forest Park Resort Buloba, about 19 km west of the capital Kampala, brought Ugandan and Chinese cultures closer.
As the Ugandan, Chinese, and mixed teams tussled it out on the water, on the shore revellers were feasting. Cultural games and dances were also among the highlights of the day.
Zheng Zhuqiang, Chinese ambassador to Uganda, said the event serves as a key bridge connecting the Chinese and Ugandans.
Just as rowing teams work together to win, it is imperative for citizens of the world to work in the spirit of the Dragon Boat, he said.
People should “work in a united, concerted and well-coordinated manner to tackle the global challenges that we face today,” Zheng said.
Uganda’s Vice President Edward Ssekandi thanked China for its continued support to Africa.
Thanking China for being a true friend of Africa and Uganda, he said: “A community of a shared future needs natural building blocs.”
Ssekandi directed the ministry of education and sports to professionalize the dragon boat sport so that Uganda can compete in international tournaments.
“Uganda looks at dragon boating as unique Chinese sport of rich cultural value and now of global participation,” he said.
“By the end of this season, we should see professional Ugandan teams ready to effectively compete in Olympics and other international encounters,” Ssekandi added.
Professionalizing the sport has already started. Weeks before the festival, a team of Chinese experts flew into Uganda to equip Ugandan coaches with better rowing skills.
“I have a dream of promoting talent among the fishing community in eastern Uganda. The participants have gained skills as speed has improved,” John Bosco Akera, manager of A-1 Beach team, one of the competitors, told Xinhua. “We thank the Chinese trainers who have equipped us with boating skills.”
Julius Mukwano, of Trust Paints team, said he will participate in all future competitions. “This is quite interesting and a wonderful experience.”
“I enjoyed the competition even if I did not win,” he said.
Seven teams, two from China and five from Uganda, competed in the event. Jianghan University team from China won the top place.
The event ended with a number of local artistes putting up a music show for the audience. Enditem