I’d forgotten that there was another Olympics. In all the hoo haa about Greenwich and London 2012, I’d totally overlooked the fact that another international event was taking place in 2008. If, a year ago, you’d asked me where the 2008 Games were being held, I’d be troubled to reach into the depths of memory and recall its location.
About the same time, a Mr W K Lam had just set up The Equestrian Company in Hong Kong, reporting to the Beijing Organising Committee for the Games (BOCOG). He had two and a half years to kick Hong Kong into action, on behalf of the Chinese government, to be ready to host the equestrian events for 2008.
Hong Kong you say, that doesn’t ring any bells. No, that’s because the remainder of the Olympic sports, with the exception of the sailing events, are being held in Beijing. So why has the Olympic equestrian sports of eventing, dressage and show jumping been banished to Hong Kong?
Well, rumour has it that it has something to do with a large pig farm and the difficulty in providing a site that was suitable to meet International Olympic Committee (IOC) requirements for quarantine facilities in Beijing.
Of course, that’s just the rumour – the official line is that when feasibility studies identified the potential area in Beijing as unsuitable, Hong Kong, with its history of popular racing, incredible veterinary facilities, and experience of handling large scale events, did fit the bill. However, the IOC awarded the 2008 Olympics to Beijing in July 2001 and that feasiblity study must have taken a further four years – a lifetime when organising an event like this – to come to its conclusion.
There are many grey areas connected to the choice of Hong Kong – isolation from the main games diluting the atmosphere, and creating logistics problems, space or the lack of it, and typhoon threats (especially in August when local racing closes down) to name but a few. But the positives outweigh the negatives and Mr Lam is hard at work.
Mind you if I were a betting person and had to put money on someone being able to complete the target on deadline, Mr Lam would be favourite.
There are two sites dedicated to the equestrian events. The first, the Sha Tin racecourse (largest of the two racecourses in Hong Kong) and adjoining Hong Kong Sports Institute, will accommodate the dressage and show jumping to be held in the comparative cool of August evenings. The second, the Beas River Country Club and adjoining Hong Kong Golf Club are being refurbished for the cross-country. Both projects are already well under way and a test event is to be held in August 2007. This will use part of the partially completed facilities to check how humidity is going to affect the horses, amongst many other things.
Another good reason for holding the events here is that the Hong Kong Jockey Club is financing the provision of the facilities. The HKJC is a non-profit making business – if that’s not a contradiction in terms. Basically they pay their taxes to the HK government and then any profits are used for charitable works for the local community from building hospitals to local schools.
“Hong Kong is used to organising these things at break neck pace,” says Mr Lam (who look remarkably composed and definitely not stressed) in a briefing session about the Hong Kong equestrian Olympics that I attended in Hong Kong today – and everyone seems to agree.
I’ll go for £1 to win.
Don’t miss Jaki’s other updates from Hong Kong throughout the week here on horseandhound.co.uk.
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