Over 300,000 couples tie knot on Olympics start date

BEIJING (AFP) - More than 300,000 couples tied the knot on Friday for the start of the Beijing Olympic Games, setting a one-day record in communist China, state media reported.

At least 314,224 couples got married across the country on Friday, the eighth day of the eighth month of 2008, the official Xinhua news agency said late Saturday.

The day was considered extremely auspicious, as the number eight sounds like the word for wealth.

It was the highest number since communist China was established in 1949, Xinhua said.

In Olympic-host city Beijing, 15,646 couples got married, 23 times more than the daily average, the news agency reported.

By way of comparison, the previous one-day record in the Chinese capital was 4,452 in December 2006.

Some registration offices in Beijing and neighbouring Tianjin worked around the clock to meet demand, and one couple got married just after one bureau opened at midnight in the east of Beijing.

The huge number of marriages shows that couples were not deterred by what some Chinese netizens have called bad omens in 2008.

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 -- had made some doubt the benefits of 2008.