“Fortune Heights Snow Polo World Cup 2013”
Grand Opening Ceremony For World’s Largest Snow Polo Tournament Was Conducted For 2nd Year Running at Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club
12 teams from around the world vie for the world championship at Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club from Jan 25 – Feb 3
Distinguished guests from around the world were welcomed today to the Fortune Heights Snow Polo World Cup 2013 (“Snow Polo World Cup”) at the Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club (“Metropolitan Polo Club”). The Snow Polo World Cup is one of the major eventsLive on the world polo calendar, and is the world’s largest snow polo tournament. This is the second year running it is taking place at the Metropolitan Polo Club in Tianjin. The tournament is hosted by China Equestrian Association and the Federation of International Polo (FIP), and is organized by the Tianjin Sports Bureau, the Hong Kong Polo Development and Promotion Federation (HKPDPF) and the Tianjin Polo Association, with support from various sponsors. The tournament matches began yesterday, but today’s Grand Opening Ceremony was an opportunity for the participants to receive a spectacular and rousing welcome, from the hosts and from the Tianjin Municipal Government.
Twelve teams are participating in this year’s tournament with handicaps ranging from 14 to 16 goals, making this the world’s premier snow polo event. The teams, selected in cooperation with the Federation of International Polo, represent 9 out of the top 10 polo countries. Countries represented are: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, England, France, Hong Kong SAR, India, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA.
Standing under the bright winter sunshine of Tianjin, and surrounded by the beautiful luxurious architecture of Fortune Heights, the ceremony was opened by Mr Pan Zhichen, Chairman of the China Equestrian Association. After welcoming the guests and congratulating the organizers, Mr Pan recounted the early history of polo in Tang and Song dynasty China, noting polo’s renaissance in China today, and acknowledging snow polo as the pinnacle of the sport: “China has become a universally acknowledged international leader in sports…it is my sincerest wish that Snow Polo World Cup 2013 become a crowning achievement”. Mr Pan was followed by Federation of International Polo President, Dr. Richard Caleel, who warmly welcomed spectators of both the liveand the televised matches, and who expressed his belief in the future role that China will play as a world-class polo nation: “…polo is growing in China at a rapid pace, and with the support of organizations such as the Metropolitan Polo Club, we are certain that China will soon become a significant force in international polo”. The Vice-Mayor of Tianjin, Ms Zhang Junfang, went on to also welcome everyone, to give sincere thanks to the hosts and organizers, and additionally to note the role of Metropolitan Polo Club and the Snow Polo World Cup in developing Tianjin as a global sport destination: “…Snow Polo World Cup 2013 will be a platform for increasing understanding of polo in Tianjin, and also will be a platform for expanding awareness of Tianjin across the globe”.
As a long line of distinguished guests stood on the podium, spectacular plumes of multicolored smoke erupted into the sky, initiating a spectacular pageant of music and dance. A phalanx of flag dancers in gold and red tunics marched onto the crisp snow and performed to rousing opera singing from the Buenos Aires Opera Show. This was followed by the crashing symbols and drum beats of the Buenos Aires Marching Band, whose music built an atmosphere of anticipation as the flags of the 12 teams were carried onto the field. As the music built to a dramatic crescendo, the 12 teams saluted the cheering crowds in a spirit of honor and elation.
Grand Opening Ceremony Day Match Coverage
The game-play began with the much anticipated Argentina vs. Canada match. Argentina, the world’s top polo nation, did not disappoint, putting on a remarkable display of power and skill, systematically taking control of the ball, and taking powerful long swings down-field. Canada put up an excellent opposition, staying level through the second chukka, but ultimately losing in the final chukka 6 goals to 3, with Argentina player Dario Musso galloping repeatedly downfield and swinging the ball through the Canadian defense. Argentina team manager Santiago Gaztambide later gave some insight into the Argentine polo philosophy: “it is the connection between pony and man that is the most important aspect of the game, each playing together as one…we must take great care to match our players with the ponies, a pony that works well with one player may not be right for another”.
The second game matched England vs. New Zealand. England, who beat the USA yesterday, faced stiff opposition, in particular from New Zealand star player John Paul Clarkin, a regular winner in the world’s top polo tournaments. For much of the match England was kept on the defensive, although England player James Harper continued from his strong performance against the USA, notching up 2 goals. However, with the excellent teamwork displayed by New Zealand, and with Clarkin showing equal prowess on both offense and defense, England was ultimately defeated 4 goals to 2.
The most exciting match of the day was undoubtedly Hong Kong, China vs. Chile. The first two chukkas were intense struggles, with the Hong Kong team quickly closing on each opportunity to take the ball, and bombarding the Chilean defense. At the end of the second chukka, Hong Kong was leading 2 goals to 1. But it was the final chukka that had the crowd jumping with excitement. The Chilean team’s incredibly powerful forward swings repeatedly placed the ball within shot of the Hong Kong goal-line, allowing Chile to score a spectacular winning goal just seconds before the final whistle. Chile ended the game with a 3 goals to 2 victory.
Tomorrow’s matches will include South Africa vs. France; Argentina vs. Australia and the USA vs. New Zealand.