Aug 8, 2008

Fun - Olympic fever infects newlyweds,expectant mothers

With the Olympics finally coming to China, tens of thousands of young people have rushed to marry or deliver babies.

The Games are due to open on Friday, or 08/08/08. “Eight” is 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-d ay 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 December 18, 2006, which had one eight in it by the Western calendar. Under the lunar calendar, it was October 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.

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 August 8. It is such a special day worth remembering,” said a 38-year-old woman surnamed Xie at the Hunan Provincial Maternal and Children Health Hospital. — Xinhua

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