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November 28, 2009

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Macau readies for 10-year bash

MACAU is celebrating 10 years of astonishing development and its status as an international gambling and entertainment mecca. In the view of many, Macau leaves Las Vegas in, well, the desert sand.

Ten years ago next month on December 20, 1999, the former Portuguese colony of Macau was returned to China.

Since then, Macau, once a sleepy enclave, has come a long way.

Preparations for the 10th anniversary bash are well underway.

It's the only place in China where gambling is legal.

There's luxury casino gambling on a dazzling scale, five-star hotels, big-name entertainment, grand prix racing, luxury shopping, fine cuisine from around the world and sightseeing.

It's even turning into a Michael Jackson shrine since Ponte 16 hotel casino successfully bid this month for the King of Pop's rhinestone-encrusted glove worn in 1983 during his moon walk.

10th anniversary

The event scheduled for December 10 will feature a spectacular fireworks display.

Joao Manuel Costa Antunes, director of the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO), wants the people of Macau to star in their own celebration.

"We want this not to be just one big show but a celebration of people of Macau who will create their own shows," he says in an interview.

There will be an official organizing committee but most of the activities will be managed directly by the different community associations, he says.

Within Macau's population of around 544,000 are many social, cultural, family and special interest associations. By one MGTO count, there may be as many as 2,000 such groups in the special administrative region. They include Portuguese expatriates, Macanese and Chinese mainlanders who came from districts and small towns in mainland.

Some groups focus on sports, Chinese opera, theater, dance, cooking and food, flower arranging and other areas.

The goal is to turn the 10th anniversary celebration over to these associations.

Dragone show

City of Dreams is set to open a permanent new show, the House of Dancing Water, in the first half of next year.

City of Dreams is an integrated entertainment resort that combines electrifying entertainment, a diverse array of accommodation, regional and international dining, designer brand shopping and a spacious and contemporary casino.

The show will be housed in a 2,000-seat state-of-the-art Theater of Dreams built by the Pei Partnership. It contains one of the world's most impressive commercial pools containing the equivalent of more than five Olympic-sized swimming pools.

It will be the largest water production ever staged, the City of Dreams officials say.

Franco Dragone is famous for his spectacular and imaginative productions, including "Le Reve" and "Celine Dion's A New Day" in Las Vegas. He will personally direct the water show that draws inspiration from Chinese culture.

Seeking inspiration, Dragone toured China and explored its art and culture, particularly traditional operas.

He decided on a love story, with an intriguing storyline of storms, love and a journey of rediscovery and redemption.

The show will feature an international cast, nearly 80 in all, of acrobats, contortionists, dancers, motorcycle stunt men, musicians, strap artists, including the renowned Sergei Akimov.

The production incorporates dazzling costumes, out-of-this-world audio and visual special effects, combined with awe-inspiring sets produced by some of the world's most esteemed designers.

There are 130 members of the production and technical team from 18 countries and regions.

The show tells the story of the Serpent Queen who has separated the two halves of a powerful medallion, the Guardian of Harmony, in a realm destined to belong to the Princess Aani.

It's a long and complicated story.

The Serpent Queen underestimates the power of the medallion that can unite the hero and heroine, representing the two halves.

On the other side of the world, a mariner bestows one half of the medallion upon a young man, Jean, who knows nothing of its value. He stows away on a galleon, with his faithful companion, and is bound for the mysterious Orient.

Eventually, after all kinds of misfortune, he meets his other half, the beautiful princess who is also a martial artist.

It's a magical journey, a triumph of love over sinister forces. There's laughter and tears and lots of martial arts and acrobatics.

Food Festival

The Macau Food Festival is underway -- it ends tomorrow -- at the Praca do Lago Sai Van Lake Square.

With its freewheeling open market-like atmosphere and a universe of gastronomical delights, few food events can rival this. There's lots of entertainment and games.

Grand Prix

The 56th Macau Grand Prix just ended on November 22, after four days of excitement involving four-wheeled road missiles.

Catch it next year.

In the run-up to the 10th anniversary celebrations, the race was spectacular, featuring Formula One, Formula Three, stock car, touring car and motorcycle events.


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