Dragon Boat World Championships at Georgia’s Lake Lanier Olympic Park Combine Competition and Culture

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Georgia’s Lake Lanier Olympic Park (LLOP), 45 minutes northeast of downtown Atlanta, will host the International Canoe Federation (ICF) Dragon Boat World Championships September 13-16. This is the first time the world tournament will be held in the United States. More than 1,500 athletes from over 25 countries — including the United States, France, Hungary, Germany, China, Japan, Ukraine and Italy — will gather to compete in traditional canoes, adorned with dragon’s heads and tails, while also celebrating the cultural heritage of this deeply symbolic Asian heritage event.

Origin of Dragon Boat Racing

Dragon Boat Races date back 2,000 years and have origins in an ancient Chinese legend. As the story goes, there was a well-loved patriot poet named Qu Yuan who lived during the 4th century B.C. Although loved by the people, corrupt court officials banished Yuam. Unable to cope with his sorrow, Yuam drowned himself in the Mi Lo River. Local fishermen raced out in their boats in attempt to save him, but arrived too late. In order to lure fish away from the body, they beat the water with their paddles and tossed rice dumplings into the river. The dragon boat races are a re-enactment of the attempt to save Qu Yuan and have become a major part of Chinese culture, representing patriotism and group integrity.

Make celebrating this unique cultural event a family affair. There are plenty of ways to get in the spirit of the ancient races and stir up excitement leading up to the championships at North Georgia’s Lake Lanier Olympic Park.

Cultural Presentations

Although you can expect to see steep competition on the waterway at the Dragon Boat World Championships, the races are more than just sport. Immerse yourself in Chinese culture with ceremony and ritual at the venue. Before the canoes take off, indulge in both Chinese and other cuisines from around the world. Watch traditional Chinese dances and other cultural presentations throughout Lake Lanier Olympic Park.

About the Race

Once in the spirit, cheer on the colorful competition on the flat waterway. There are two standard-sized boats. One holds twenty paddlers, a steersman and a drummer, the other holds ten paddlers, a steersman and a drummer. At least two boats compete against each other over distances from 200 to 2000 meters and above. Strength, endurance and teamwork are of the upmost importance to racers hoping to earn top nods.

Team USA will have multiple teams participating in the world tournament. Around 10,000 spectators are expected to attend the races at Lake Lanier Olympic Park and the estimated economic impact is predicted to be five million dollars to the Gainesville area.

Sponsorship and volunteer opportunities are available. Contact Robyn Lynch at Robyn@LakeLanierOlympicVenue.org for more information.

Known as Atlanta’s Hamptons, the Lake Lanier area is an upscale community on the rise, 45 minutes northeast of downtown Atlanta. With its location between the big city and the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Lake Lanier also offers easy access to Appalachian culture and attractions.

On the eastern shoreline of Lake Lanier in Hall County, there are 10 full service marinas with year-round access to multiple water sports. The crown jewel of Lake Lanier’s water sport venues is Lake Lanier Olympic Park (LLOP), a world-class sporting and special events facility. Over the past 22 years, the LLOP has hosted prestigious international sporting, civic, social and corporate events, including the 1996 Olympic Games.

Lake Lanier celebrated the 20th anniversary of its Olympic Legacy May 19-22, 2016, when the community played host to the Pan-American Championships for sprint canoe/kayak. This event was the last Continental Olympic Qualifier before The Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, bringing together athletes from North, South and Central America for four days of competition.

In September of 2018, Lake Lanier Olympic Park will host the International Canoe Federation Dragon Boat World Championships. Athletes from over 25 countries will gather to compete in traditional canoes adorned with dragon’s heads and tails while also celebrating the cultural heritage of this deeply symbolic Asian heritage event. This competition will be the largest world gathering of athletes in the area since the Centennial Olympic Games in 1996.

Lake Lanier Olympic Park boasts one of the best competition venues for flatwater sports world-wide. Hosting world-class competitions, as well as local and national athletes and teams, this venue and its ideal racing course—with a naturally-flowing straightaway of over 3,000 meters—is a highly desirable location for high-performance training. The facility also provides recreational opportunities for the region and is a destination point for sports enthusiasts, including paddle boarding, fishing, swimming and other water sports. The boathouse and arena are also available to rent for weddings, festivals, team-building activities, corporate meetings and events.

The natural beauty surrounding Lake Lanier Olympic Park is unmatched by similar centers in the country and serves as a keystone in the community’s recreational offerings.

Beyond experiencing the thrill of the Championships, spectators in the area can also enjoy the attractions, shopping and dining this world-class destination has to offer. As the most visited U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lake in the world, Lake Lanier is a natural choice for beaches, boating and other water-based recreational pursuits. The surrounding area, with its Southern and Appalachian heritage, boasts a rich and diverse blend of museums, attractions and annual events that help round out the destination as a year-round choice for travelers. Enjoy zip lines and canopy tours, equestrian trails, hiking and biking while taking in the areas’ farm markets and main street shops. Lanier Islands Resort is the primary lodging destination with hotel, villa, lake house and camping accommodations. Here you’ll find a white sand beach, water park with slides and wave pool, a wide variety of dining and entertainment options, as well as many special events held year-round.

The Lake Lanier Olympic Park is known for hosting prestigious events, including:

1996: Centennial Olympic Games
1997: US Canoe/Kayak National Championships
2003: Canoe/Kayak Senior World Championships
2010: USA Rowing National Championships
2011: Canoe/Kayak/Rowing US National Championships
2014: Canoe/Kayak/Rowing US National Championships
2015: USA Rowing National Championships
2016: Pan-American Championships
2017: USA Rowing SE Junior Championships
2018: ICF Dragon Boat World Championships
Multiple years: American Collegiate Rowing National Championships

Lake Lanier Olympic Park celebrated the 20th anniversary of its Olympic Legacy in 2016.

In 2018, the Park will host the International Canoe Federation Dragon Boat World Championships, a first time event for the American continents. Athletes from over 25 countries will gather to celebrate the culture and comradery of this ancient sport with deeply rooted traditions in Asia.

The Park hosted the Pan-American Championships for sprint kayak on May 19-22, 2016. This event was the last Continental Olympic Qualifier before the Olympics in Rio, bringing together athletes from North, South and Central America for four days of competition.

The Lake Lanier community is located about 45 minutes north of Atlanta, with convenient access to both the city and the Blue Ridge Mountains. On the eastern shoreline of Lake Lanier in Hall County, there are 10 full service marinas with year-round access to multiple water sports.

Lake Lanier Olympic Park is open to the public and offers opportunities to participate in paddle boarding, fishing, swimming and other water sports. The Park’s boathouse and arena are also available to the general public to rent for weddings, festivals, team-building activities, corporate meetings and events. Lake Lanier is the most visited U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lake in the world.

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