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Haikou, Hainan Province, China, June 17, 2007—Showing that it's never too early to fire up the Olympic spirit, a hot-air balloon floats over Qiongzhou Haixia (Hainan Strait), which separates the island province of Hainan from China's mainland.

The balloon is one of ten that made the passage during the first Haikou Fire Balloon Festival, which took place from June 15 to June 17 and attracted more than a thousand people to the provincial capital.

Though ballooning is not an Olympic sport, the new festival was themed "Meeting the 2008 Beijing Olympics and Building a Harmonious Haiku," according to the China News Web site.

Organizers are hoping that the event will grow in coming years to become the largest in Asia—and possibly a rival to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, a 700-balloon festival that claims to be the most photographed event on Earth.

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—Photograph from Reuters/China Daily (China)
 
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