Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2024

Hong Kong Was A Pleasant Surprise

There was a lot of conversation about how the equestrian portion of the 2008 Olympic Games were going to play out in Hong Kong. It’s too hot. It’s too humid. It’s too polluted. These were all concerns bandied about in the months and years before the Games.
   
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There was a lot of conversation about how the equestrian portion of the 2008 Olympic Games were going to play out in Hong Kong. It’s too hot. It’s too humid. It’s too polluted. These were all concerns bandied about in the months and years before the Games.
   
Yes, it was hot. And quite humid. But the air was clear, and I think the most important thing to remember about these Games is that the horses were taken care of very, very well. My fellow reporter, Beth Rasin, and I were impressed with the lengths to which the organizers of the Olympic Games in Hong Kong went to ensure the comfort, welfare and health of the horses.
   
I took a stable tour mid-way through the Games, and the stable blocks were light, cool and spacious, and the horses looked happy in their stalls. The footing in the main stadium and the schooling rings was first-rate and received rave reviews from the riders. There were multiple misting tents to help horses cool down. With the evening schedules, the horses were saved from having to perform in the hottest time of the day—by the 7:15 p.m. start times, it was usually still warm, but quite comfortable, and more often than not there was a light breeze.

Cross-country day for the eventing was the biggest concern, since they had to run in the sunlight (Aug. 22, p. 8). But the weather gods blessed Hong Kong, and the day was overcast, cooler and had a consistent light drizzle. The footing held up quite well to the vast quantities of rain that had drenched the area in a typhoon days before. I’m sure the veterinary studies that were conducted in Hong Kong will provide useful information about running horses in those conditions, but the general consensus on the day was that the horses finished well. They certainly looked remarkably frisky at the jog the next day.

Actually, those weather gods couldn’t have smiled more broadly on the Games in Hong Kong.
   
A level 8 typhoon swept through the area just days before the Games were to begin but left just a legacy of light drizzle for the first few days. The competition was book-ended by another typhoon, with level 9 warnings this time. The warnings went up hours before the individual show jumping final was to begin on the last day, Aug. 21. Organizers decided to go ahead with the competition and were again blessed—the rain and wind held off until just after the awards ceremony, and the last evening of competition was held under perfect conditions.

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The organizers and volunteers in Hong Kong went above and beyond to help in any capacity they could—Beth and I joked that we didn’t open a door the whole time we were there. Our sense of direction is also a bit rusty, since every time we went to go somewhere, there was an army of volunteers pointing the way.
   
These Games weren’t without their problems—there was controversy about the cross-country course, the judging in dressage came under scrutiny, and four positive medication tests marred the show jumping (see p. 27)—but all in all, they were a success. The horses seemed happy and performed well. The stands were crowded.

And great competition was witnessed by all.

Molly Sorge, Assistant Editor

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