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'Amazing Race China Rush' is on

THE breathtaking beauty of China's national parks and its awe-inspiring cities form the backdrop for the rugged China version of popular reality TV show "The Amazing Race," which premieres next week.

International Channel Shanghai will screen the 12-episode series "The Amazing Race China Rush" starting at 8pm next Sunday. They feature tough physical challenges and specially designed extreme sports contests.

Shanghai production company FLY Films filmed the series over 30 days in 10 cities across China, and competitors are vying for the grand prize of a trip around the world.

Previously the producers of the last year's popular ICS reality TV show "Shanghai Rush," Fly Films' latest foray into reality TV, trained 17 cameras on 20 contestants drawn from across the globe.

In the new show "China Rush," 10 two-person teams include two Masai warriors from Kenya, an Australian team who rode motorcycles through the Himalayan foothills and camels in the Sahara Desert, and a couple who appeared on the Eurovision Song Contest.

Twelve foreigners living in Shanghai are also among the contestants who surpassed thousands of applicants from more than 40 countries and regions who applied online to get on the show.

The contestants are drawn from a number of countries including Australia, Canada, England, India, Kenya, Latvia, Mexico and the United States.

For the two Masai warriors from Kenya, coming to an urban jungle posed its own particular challenges.

FLY Films director and cofounder Eric Ransdell first met game ranger Paul Lebeneyio while working as a reporter in Africa in the 1990s.

Lebeneyio and his teammate social worker Francis Merinyi grew up herding cattle in the Rift Valley of Kenya and neither had been out of East Africa before being catapulted into the bright lights of reality TV.

"The first night they were in a hotel with all the contestants in Xujiahui and there was demolition going on nearby and one of them thought the hotel was being attacked so he ran out into the street in his underpants," says Ransdell.

"It was as if we shot these guys 75 years into the future, they couldn't believe the city, there were so many roads, so many people they had never seen anything like that in their lives."

ICS bought the rights for the China franchise from the original maker Disney ABC International Television and the China-version of the show closely follows the format of the seven-time Emmy Award winning contest. Shanghai Daily is the media sponsor of the reality show.

While producers and ICS are reluctant to give away the destinations they visited, it is believed they filmed in iconic sites in Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu, Sichuan Province, as well as in small villages.

Viewers get to see some of China's most iconic sites up close and personal, with Fly Films given unprecedented access to film.

"The great thing about this series is that as with 'Shanghai Rush,' ICS has organized access with a number of local governments so we could film in some of the best locations in the whole of China," Ransdell says.

"Every city really wanted to show off so we were able to do things and film in places no-one has been able to before."

Ransdell says the contestants have to navigate their way around each of the locations using a variety of clues and then also compete in specially designed games.

"This year we structured the show so it was all about the games," he says.

"Last year in 'Shanghai Rush,' a lot of the challenge was also getting from A to B and we wanted it to be about how do you deal with this extreme sports challenge. This year all the drama is coming from the games."

A team spent up to two months prior to filming designing a range of challenges and FLY Films used extreme sports producer who was a former champion climber to help design the games.

The producers wanted to keep the show as live as possible and used a number of small and mounted cameras to get up close to contestants as they took on various challenges.

The live element adds real excitement to the show and FLY Films executive producer Norman Wong says contestants were put under much more pressure than last year's "Shanghai Rush" show.

"It was intense, it was like a live sporting event every day and for our film crews, if the contestants didn't stop for 16 hours then they didn't stop either," says Wong.

FLY Films are no strangers to live television, having last year produced the live talk show "Asia Uncut" that was filmed in front of a live audience in Shanghai.

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