This article first appeared in the Nov/Dec 2010 issue of World Gaming magazine.
Fireworks are as Chinese as dumplings and panda bears. For centuries the Chinese have lit the sky with fireworks displays that have left generations cheering in amazement. The ‘fire in the sky’ is used to scare away demons and evil spirits and bring wonderment to children. Macau has further enhanced the cultural landscape of fireworks by hosting the Macau International Fireworks Display Contest, one of the most significant fireworks competitions in the world. The best pyrotechnic experts from every corner of the globe descend on Macau to light up the night skies. They are vying not only to be recognised as the champion but to land lucrative international contracts.
The event has run for 22 years and is organised by the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO). The 2010 contest was held on 11, 18, 22 and 25 September with the event culminating on China’s National Day, 1 October.
World-renowned pyrotechnic companies have been participating in the Macau International Fireworks Display Contest for many years. This year the contest featured teams from the United Kingdom, Chinese Taiwan, the Philippines, Australia, Portugal, South Korea, Japan, France, Italy and China. The teams from South Korea, Italy and China were making their Macau debut. In a first, locals were able to text votes for their favourite team on every night of competition and enter the draw to win prizes that included reserve tickets to the Macau Grand Prix. These votes didn’t act as part of the official judging but it is an interesting concept that might be used for judging in the future. The public enjoyed music synchronized to the spectacular displays through Radio Macau’s live broadcast on FM100.7.
The event gets bigger and better every year, as does the crowd of spectators that flocks to the Macau peninsula’s southern shoreline to witness the show. One of the favourites for the event this year was the Tamaya Kitahara Fireworks Co. Ltd. from Japan who won the championship in 2004, 2005 and 2009, as well as picking up second prize in 2008. They are famous for their unique technique to produce perfectly spherical fireworks and this again gained the applause of the spectators. They beat a star-studded field and were over the moon to be crowned the 2010 Champions, making Tamaya Kitahara victorious for four out of the last seven years.
China’s Panda Fireworks Group Co. Ltd. was behind the show to celebrate the 61st anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, and they showed they are amongst the best in the world by taking out second position in the contest. Platinum Fireworks Inc from Philippines rounded out the top three. The prize money this year saw the teams take home over US$20,000.
This is not a competition that is just about winning – it is a showcase for the best in the world to show off their abilities. Good results in this competition can mean lucrative contracts in the future as event coordinators from all corners of the globe look for the most innovative firework displays. But aside from the commercial aspect these companies love to entertain the crowd and that is exactly what they did.
Adding to the festive atmosphere, the MGTO and the General Union of Neighborhood Associations jointly held a carnival beside Macau Tower, offering an array of live entertainment, cultural activities and culinary delights that ensured visitors and locals alike were well taken care of. The Macau community is increasingly offering this kind of support to international standard events showing that Macau is far more than just a gaming destination.