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August 18, 2010

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Old men make a splash in park

SOME elderly men have discovered their own way of keeping cool amid the heat wave by jumping into the lake at Luxun Park in Hongkou District, turning the park's sightseeing spot into a leisure swimming pool.

The park management officials said they were trying their best to stop the dangerous practice by dispatching security guards, sometimes with patrol dogs, on regular checks, but their efforts have so far proved futile.

The old men, aged between 50 to 65, play chess, Tai Chi, and other group activities in the shade at the park during the day time.

But when the sun is not at its scorching best and the guards are off work, they take off their clothes and jump into the lake, despite warning signs of "No Swimming" posted all around.

Security guards at the park said the old swimmers have been a headache for them for several years but with the days getting hotter, more are joining the group. They said more than 30 swimmers were splashing around in the lake several days ago when the temperature hit 40 degrees Celsius.

"We have tried every method to warn them not to swim in the lake, by shouting at them and even calling the police, but they just don't pay heed," said a guard, surnamed Tang.

He said once when the police came, an old man jumped into the lake in front of them, swam fast to the other side of the lake while shouting at them, "Catch me if you can."

Tang said the man was later caught by police and was fined for his behavior. Since then, the elderly swimmers have stopped jumping into the lake when the guards are on duty.

"We have to send out patrol dogs because sometimes they climb over the walls to sneak into the park and swim in the middle of the night," Tang revealed. "Can you believe it?"

The old swimmers said they loved the park's ecological environment. They refused to go to the nearby Hongkou Swimming Pool because they said the price was too high.

The swimming pool charges 25 yuan (US$3.68) per person for a 2-hour session on weekends.

Some regular visitors to the park told Shanghai Daily that a man drowned in the lake while swimming in 2008, and a sign board warns visitors that the lake has a depth of more than 2.5 meters. "Swimming in deep water is more fun," said an old swimmer, surnamed Wang.

Wu Gang, director of the park, said they were still working on new methods to stop the old men, but conceded that they also need help from society, such as the old men's families.


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