presented by Gaitpost Magazine

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hong Kong: Wow and Wow!

For those naysayers out there who think that the Hong Kong equestrian events will be anything but top notch, let me disabuse you of that notion right now. The gang of journalists was nothing short of blown away by the incredible skill which the Hong Kong Jockey Club (not to mention astronomical investment of HK dollars) has invested in preparations for this summer. From drug testing to veterinary hospitals, footing to stabling, the facilities and logistics may set a new standard for future hosts of major equestrian events.

If the previous day’s parade of heads of this, that and the other left us slightly stupefied with blather, yesterday’s extensive tour of the drug lab, vet hospital, and venue left us all wishing the Olympics were next week and not in five months. Not that everything is finished yet; there are still many facilities to be completed, including the grand stands, media centre and other indoor amenities. There are so many training arenas (all with fantastic and identical sand-fibre mix footing) that if everyone in every discipline decides to train at 6 am, crowding won’t be a problem. And they will want to train in the early morning if they are smart. The head of racing operations at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, John Ridley, says that of course weather will be a factor. No one here is denying that it will be hot and humid and that there will be some rain. But holy crap Batman, have they got it covered. The footing has undergone percolation tests that show it can drain 130 millimetres of rainfall in a single hour. Oh, to have footing like THAT in our ring at home in Vancouver!

Contrary to reports I heard that the area of Sha Tin around the venue is gray and dreary, I found it refreshingly green compared with the concrete, glass and steel madness of Hong Kong and Kowloon. The pace is more leisurely, and green mountains peek up behind the buildings in almost every direction. Personally I think that these Games will be an incredible experience, both for the athletes and the spectators.

Today we tour the cross country course at Beas River Country Club, a 20 kilometre drive from the main venue. The jumps are not all built yet, but we will get a good look at some of Michael Etherington-Smith’s creativity, as well as the track – which has been designed to facilitate shortening should the weather be too extreme. Tonight we are off to the races at Sha Tin. I am a lousy gambler, so will probably stick to cheering, and leave the betting to those who know what they are doing.

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