Some 1,200 people gathered in Xiangyang, Hubei province this past Sunday to swim across the Han River, a tributary of the Yangtze River, which Mao Zedong had historically crossed 49 years ago.
The swimmers, formed into 19 phalanxes, dived into the water from a port in Fancheng on Sunday morning and swam over 1,000 meters across the river to another port in Xiangcheng.
“Promote sports activities, strengthen people’s health. 1, 2, 3, 4!” Swimmers yelled this slogan from time to time so loudly that even onlookers standing on the riverbank could hear.
In July 1966, then-72-year-old Mao joined 5,000 other swimmers in Wuhan’s 11th annual Cross-Yangtze Competition, a pure move of propaganda meant to demonstrate the Great Helmsman’s ‘robust health’ and ability to lead his latest revolution.
History Today describes the scene:
Surrounded by six swimming bodyguards, accompanied by giant portraits of himself and by placards asking for 10,000 years of life for him, he stays in the water for 65 minutes, drifting some ten miles downstream with the powerful current. Whether he is joined by any of the attractive young women from what is known euphemistically as his ‘Cultural Work Troupe’ we do not know. Two days later he will be back in Beijing after a long absence, ready to ‘bombard’ the Communist Party headquarters, which he denounces as the great enemy, a hotbed of revisionism and feudal tendencies.
The groups of swimmers were given scores and awarded accordingly (presumably with giant posters of Mao).
By Joyce Ng
[Images via TouTiao News]