CAIRO, March 13 (Xinhua) — At a boat club of one of Cairo hotels overlooking the Nile River, Egyptian officials announced the founding of the Egyptian Dragon Boat Federation (EDBF), which is expected to further ties between Egypt and China through sports.

Meanwhile in the river, three dragon boats with tens of paddlers onboard were racing and greeting the attendees with cheers and drums.

The EDBF has recently been approved by the Egyptian sports minister and recognized by the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF).

“Sports is a soft power that can bring nations together,” EDBF chief Nader Roshdy told Xinhua during the event, highlighting the “positive effect” of practicing the Chinese popular sport in Egypt on the relations between the two peoples.

IDBF President Mike Thomas sent a video speech to the ceremony, congratulating Egypt on the establishment of the dragon boat federation and expecting the North African country to contribute to spreading the sport in Africa and the Arab world.

For his part, Chinese Ambassador to Egypt Liao Liqiang made a statement that was read to the attendees during the ceremony, conveying his happiness with the founding of an Egyptian federation for the Chinese 2,000-year-old water sport.

“As we celebrate today the official recognition of dragon boat in Egypt, we celebrate at the same time the communication and integration between the two cultures,” said the Chinese ambassador.

Liao expressed his expectation that the move would further deepen relations and enhance friendship between the two countries.

Dragon boat racing was brought to Egypt about five years ago by Ehab Gouda, who was interested in the sport and co-founded a dragon boat academy in Egypt with his wife Mary Lai from Hong Kong.

Gouda, who mastered the sport in Hong Kong and Guangzhou and is currently an IDBF representative, has organized a number of local and international dragon boat festivals in Egypt since 2016.

“Founding the EDBF was a dream that has come true,” Gouda told Xinhua, adding that the sport will act like “a bridge” between Egypt and China and expecting it to attract Chinese tourists to his country.

He noted that the IDBF has invited Egypt to join the dragon boat world championship that will be held later this year.

The guests at the ceremony watched the three dragon boats friendly racing in the river to mark the occasion of founding the EDBF.

Iman Negm, undersecretary of the Egyptian Ministry of Culture who attended the event, described the Egyptian-Chinese relations as “special,” commending the growing cultural exchange between the two countries.

A number of Chinese guests also attended the event.

“There are many ways to enrich the relations between the two countries. I think doing a fun sport like dragon boat is really a great way for the two peoples to meet each other in a friendly way,” Henrywoo Hon, a businessman from Hong Kong, said.

Egyptian dragon boat athletes were enthusiastic about the establishment of the EDBF, vowing to demonstrate a distinguished performance in all upcoming dragon boat championships.

“We have been looking forward to the establishment of an Egyptian federation for dragon boat for years, and we’re happy it has finally come true,” said Tarek Sami, a 26-year-old athlete, on one of the dragon boats.

The paddlers on both sides of the dragon boat were all men, except Marwa Mohamed, who acted as the team’s drummer.

The young woman described dragon boating as “a very beautiful and enjoyable sport that teaches cooperation and unity,” noting that she has been exercising it for three years.

“Dragon boat is not just a matter of sports, but it is a matter of cultural exchange and many other things,” the lady drummer added.

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