Chinese in large numbers are rushing either to get married or deliver babies on Friday to coincide with the first day of the Olympic Games in Beijing, Media reported.
Friday's opening of the Games falls on the eighth day of the eighth month of 2008, which is no coincidence as the number eight is traditionally considered lucky in China, as it sounds like the word for wealth.
AdvertisementIn Beijing, 16,400 couples had applied for marriage registration, the official Xinhua news agency reported late Thursday.
By comparison, there was a total of 170,000 marriages in Beijing in the whole of 2006, a 25-year record, Xinhua said.
In Shanghai, the number Friday stood at 5,000, and other cities in China like Guangzhou in the south and Wuhan in central China had seen a surge in applications to wed, Xinhua said, quoting local civil affairs authorities.
"The number of applications is many times that of normal days," Xinhua quoted Zhou Jixiang, head of the marriage registration department with the Shanghai Municipal Civil Affairs Bureau, as saying.
However a succession of disasters in China -- extreme bad weather in the south during Chinese New Year, violence in Tibet, and the earthquake in southwest China's Sichuan province -- has made some doubt the benefits of 2008.
Some Chinese netizens have even gone as far as to say the mascots of the Olympic Games are cursed.
Jingjing the panda, for them, represents the devastating 8.0-magnitude earthquake three months ago in Sichuan, where the majority of the endangered animals live.
The earthquake was on May 12 -- 88 days before the Games.
Yingying the Tibetan antelope evokes this year's deadly unrest in Tibet, while Huanhuan is a flame that for many brings back memories of the protests that embarrassed China during the Olympic torch's international journey.
But these bad omens did not deter pregnant women from having their babies on Friday, and many hospitals had increased the number of beds for expectant mothers, Xinhua said.
Artificial ways of delivering a baby include having a cesarean section, a surgical procedure, or inducing or starting labour, which can be done using drugs or by artificial rupture of membranes, or breaking of waters.