Dragon boat activity, voluntarily organised by the community, was not an annual event in Macao’s pre-1979 era. Since then, however, the activity has been promoted as an annual international dragon boat race. Athletic teams from different countries are invited to Macao to participate in this sports event enriched with traditional features. Dragon boat teams from Hong Kong, Japan, the U.S., the Philippines, China, Thailand, Singapore, Korea, Australia and Europe frequently participate in the races.

Since the founding of the Macao Special Administrative Region, the Macao International Dragon Boat Races have been jointly organised by the Sports Bureau and Macao China Dragon Boat Association. While dragon boating is a widely popular festive activity in Macao during the Dragon Boat Festival, the Macao International Dragon Boat Races have grown to become an important sports event in the territory. Year by year, the event has become larger in scale and attracts an increasing number of participants. Thousands of skilled athletes from home and abroad gather annually in Macao to participate in this significant event. In 2001, the International University Student Dragon Boat races for men and women were included in the programme.

In the past, the races primarily took place on Nam Van and Sai Van Lakes. Since its establishment, the Nam Van Lake Nautical Centre has become an ideal competition venue for the competition.