Olympics fever grips young couples, expectant mothers in China

August 7th, 2008 - 11:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 7 (Xinhua) As the Beijing Olympics start Friday, tens of thousands of young people in China are rushing to marry or have babies. The Games are due to open Friday, or 08/08/08. “Eight” is believed to be a lucky number among the Chinese, and many couples plan to tie the knot on the “triple 8 day.” Civil affairs authorities have predicted that Friday could set a one-day record for marriages since 1949, when the People’s Republic of China was founded.

Major cities have seen a surge of applications to wed on Friday. In the capital, up to 16,400 couples have applied for marriage registration. The figure is about 5,000 for Shanghai, 3,300 for Guangzhou, 2,300 in both Wuhan and Hangzhou, and 1,000 for Nanning, according to statistics from the local civil affairs authorities.

To put those numbers in perspective, there were 170,000 marriages in Beijing in all of 2006, a 25-year record. The previous one-day record for marriages in the capital was 4,452 on Dec 18, 2006, which had one eight in it by the Western calendar. Under the lunar calendar, it was Oct 28, which had two eights.

“The number of applications is many times that of normal days,” said Zhou Jixiang, head of the Marriage Registration Department with the Shanghai Municipal Civil Affairs Bureau.

“But we will do our best to help the couples go through registration procedures quickly and get their marriage certificates soon, so that they can go home in time to enjoy the Olympics opening ceremony,” he said.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs held a special meeting on Tuesday in which it ordered local civil affairs authorities to increase staff, use volunteers, work longer hours and open more offices to cope with the registration surge - as Zhou’s bureau has done.

“We must ensure that all couples can have their demands satisfied on Aug 8 and do our bit for the Olympics,” Vice Minister of Civil Affairs Jiang Li told the meeting.

But not every couple is aiming for 08/08/08.

“Yes, tomorrow is a great day for marriage. But there will be too many couples applying for registration. So my girlfriend and I choose today, the Chinese Valentine’s Day,” said Yu Guoming at a marriage registration office in the eastern city of Hangzhou Thursday.

China’s Valentine’s Day, the Qixi festival, falls on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. It is based on a love story of a cowherd and a fairy seamstress in ancient times.

As a lucky day, 08/08/08 is also a favourite for many pregnant women. In central Chinese city of Changsha, Hunan Province, several hospitals have increased the number of beds for expectant mothers.

“I want to have an Olympics baby on Aug 8. It is such a special day worth remembering,” said Xie, a 38-year-old woman, at the Hunan Provincial Maternal and Children Health Hospital.

At the request of Xie and several other expectant mothers, doctors will help them undergo caesarean births on Friday, a head nurse at the hospital said.

“We advised them that natural births are better, but they are eager to have Olympic babies,” Li said.

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