Swimmers yesterday embarked on a 72-hour relay race across the Taiwan Strait from Hsinchu to Pingtang County in mainland China.
The race was originally scheduled to begin on Saturday, Aug. 16, but it was postponed until yesterday due to weather conditions. The swimmers yesterday gathered at the starting point of the race and had their identities verified by the National Immigration Agency.
The opening ceremony of the competition was attended by Hsinchu Mayor Hsu Ming-tsai and mainland Chinese officials. The swimmers burned incense for the sea goddess Mazu to pray for a safe journey across the strait, and were also given blessings by members of Taiwan's indigenous tribes through a ritual dance.
In his speech, Hsu thanked the organisations that made the milestone-setting event possible.
The 68 nautical miles between Hsinchu to Pingtang is the shortest distance between Taiwan proper and mainland China, the mayor said, using the distance as a metaphor for the closeness between the two sides of the strait.
Organizers of the event explained that an array of safety measures were taken to ensure the swimmers' safety, and that vessels with medics onboard will follow the competitors and remain on standby should there be an accident. Taiwan and mainland China each have six swimmers and one substitute each. Swimmers are to swim in turns for three hours each.