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Tropical horses could win the Olympic equestrian events - Jan 11 2008

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By Elmer

Hong Kong's hosting of the equestrian events might give an idea to teams that unless horses are used to the tropical climate, it will be a monumental task to win the Olympic equestrian events, which will be held in a hot and humid August. But I guess since it's summer Olympics, many cities in the past shared a bit of this experience, though milder than Hong Kong's summers. Now, there are even teams pulling out of the competition, notably Team Switzerland.

The organizer of the Beijing Olympics equestrian events said yesterday the pullout by a Swiss team would not trigger a collapse of confidence in Hong Kong's ability to host the competition.

"We are not worried at all. It will have no effect whatsover," said Mark Pinkstone, a spokesman for the Equestrian Company, the body overseeing the equestrian events.

The Swiss dressage team announced on Tuesday it would not compete in this year's Olympic equestrian events in August, citing Hong Kong's heat and humidity as dangerous for its horses.

It also said the 11-hour trip from Switzerland to Hong Kong could affect the horses' ability to perform.

"We have all the evidence that heat is not a factor," Pinkstone said. "All the other federations throughout the world understand that."

The Swiss withdrawal was sparked by the decision of the country's lead rider and world No 4 Silvia Ikle not to risk the health of her horse, Salieri CH.

Her decision was made after consulting veterinarians.

According to the Hong Kong Observatory, the highest recorded temperature in August last year was 35.3 degrees Celsius.

Cloudier and wetter then usual, the month also saw six tropical cyclones in the western North Pacific and South China Sea.

Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong president Timothy Fok Tsun-ting said the decision to participate or not is up to individual athletes.

Christopher Yip, media manager of the Equestrian Company, said he did not expect other teams to pull out.

Andrew Dart, a professor of veterinary science at the University of Sydney, said that while Hong Kong could provide some of the most challenging climatic conditions, the experience and skill of the veterinary team should provide all the equestrian teams with confidence.

Trials in the last two years to study transportation, stable, cooling, veterinary and equestrian services passed without problems.

A final workshop has been scheduled for next month in Lausanne, Switzerland, to complete preparations for the games.

The International Olympic Committee accepted Hong Kong as the venue for this year's equestrian events because of the city's history in managing race horses and the absence of some 17 equine diseases that are prevalent in the mainland.

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