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Official: Overflow crowd expected at 2018 dragon boat event
Lanier to host world championships
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The Blazing Paddles team pulls back into the docks after the team's race in September 2016 during the 21st annual Atlanta Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival at the Lake Lanier Olympic Park in Gainesville. Officials with Lake Lanier predict next year's dragon boat world championship will bring crowds larger than local hotels can accommodate.

An official with Lake Lanier Olympic Venue is predicting there will not be enough hotel rooms available in Gainesville and Hall County to accommodate visitors coming to next year’s Dragon Boats World Championship sanctioned by the International Canoe Federation.

Morgan House, manager of the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue, told The Times on Thursday that the approximately 2,000 competitors expected will help generate “enormous economic impact” when they show up for the world championships in mid-September 2018.

“It would be extremely large because athletes would come a week before the event and the event lasts four to five days,” House said.

When coaches, trainers, team managers and family members are added to the number of competitors streaming into the area, House predicts the economic impact will spill over to nearby counties. He said there are not enough hotel rooms locally to handle such a large number of visitors.

“(Visitors) will pack hotels, eat at restaurants, buy groceries and fill up at gas stations and that sort of thing,” House said.

Gainesville has an inventory of less than 1,000 rooms, according to city officials

Given the estimated $1.2 million to $1.6 million economic impact generated by the annual John Hunter Regatta at Lake Lanier — a two-day collegiate rowing event that attracts 1,500 competitors and 3,000 spectators — House expects the dragon boats world championships to pump at least $7 million into the local economy.

“That’s a conservative estimate,” House said.

Lake Lanier also is host to the annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival.

“Last year we had 5,000 people at one time,” House said about the growing popularity of the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival. “That continues year after year.”

The Lake Lanier Olympic Venue hosted the rowing events during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. House said the facility has a seating capacity of 2,500, but can accommodate several more thousand spectators at its “huge” lakeshore cement plaza.

House said the world championships in 2018 will sit 20 men on each dragon boat and they will race 500- and 200-meter races. Paddlers sit in twos side-by-side and use single-bladed paddles. The boats also have a drummer and a steerer, and everybody in the boat paddles to the rhythm of the drum.

Russia hosted last year’s championships, and Lanier was awarded the 2018 event in November 2014.

“It’s held annually in a different country each year,” House said. “This will be the first time it’s held in the United States.”

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