10,000 gondolas aglow

The Rotary Club of Macau wanted its “Light Up Rotary” charity effort to be extra spectacular – not only to give the event added glow, but to acknowledge the first Chinese to become International Rotary President.

Winning Pitch

The original concept was to hold a rubber duck charity race and raffle similar to those run by Rotarians across the world. However, when licence fees to use the ducks – which are produced by a US company – made the project untenable, Sands China stepped in to sponsor the event and partner with MCI for logistical and creative solutions.

It was originally decided to replace the rubber ducks with small floating gondolas that would be lit and released into the Venetian Lagoon as part of the Venetian Macao’s Winter in Venice festival. 


One week out from the event, the release location had to change from the large lagoon outside, to indoors and the Grand Canal of Shoppes at the Venetian, a more narrow public area at the busiest retail time of year – Christmas. 

The Venetian events and procurement teams managed to source a local supplier to design and produce 10,000 gondolas that would float upright and each have a battery life of five days with lights off and eight hours with lights on. 

Two days out from the event 20 people inserted the batteries into the gondolas and, on the afternoon of the event, all the lights were switched on and placed into the brand new bins.

The release itself was a show incorporating speeches and Venetian entertainment. As the gondolas were simultaneously poured into the canal, cheers from the crowd turned to a hush as the boats twinkled on water. 

The Upshot

Thanks to the strong Rotary community and public sales points in the Venetian, all 10,000 raffle tickets sold within a month. About US$30,000 was raised to support four local organisations. 

Having won the Rotary District competition for best charity event, the “Great Gondola Grab” is now competing for an international Rotary Award. 

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