In pictures: China’s Harbin kicks off annual ice and snow festival

Fireworks explode over ice sculptures as the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival officially kicks off. Pic: Reuters

IGNORING sub-zero temperatures and biting Siberian winds, 400 swimmers plunged into an icy river in China’s northern city of Harbin on Thursday, the first day of the city’s annual ice and snow festival.

Winter swimming, as it is known in China, is enjoyed mainly by middle-aged and elderly people who believe it benefits their health. Thursday’s event saw swimmers from across China and abroad compete in an icy pool cut into the frozen Songhua river.

“Very exciting and pretty happy. My body feels super cool,” said Yu Dongbo, a 51-year-old visitor from the neighboring northern city of Daqing.

The 2017 Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival kicked off on Thursday and runs to the end of February.