The need for polo

By Mike Peters ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-10-11 08:48:06

The need for polo

A member of the Chinese polo team (left) competes with his Argentine counterparts during the Beijing International Polo Open Tournament 2014. Zhu Xingxin / China Daily

The need for polo
A taste of British luxury
First-time visitors to China recently might be forgiven for thinking they'd landed somewhere else by mistake, somewhere like Monte Carlo or Saratoga, New York. As the summer heat broke, the Beijing calendar was suddenly chock-full of polo, with a string of September tournaments in the capital and a five-day international meet in Tianjin during October's National Day holiday week.

The "sport of kings" was once unimaginable in New China, but a lot of things have changed since the reform and opening-up led by Deng Xiaoping began in 1979.

Today the phenomenon can seem like one more manifestation of China's New Rich. Besides the pricey fee for club membership-assuming one is invited-polo enthusiasts have spent as much as 3 million yuan ($488,727) for a prize pony, according to foreign media reports.

"Nothing says 'international lifestyle' and 'aristocracy' quite like polo," the president of Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club, Roland Wong, told the South China Morning Post soon after that huge venue opened in 2010.

"Twenty years ago, playing golf meant you were someone, but now for a few hundred yuan anyone can play golf," he said. "Golf has no princes, no models, but in polo you put your boots and helmet on and everyone is the same, and Prince Harry comes up and shakes your hand."

That cachet has made companies such as Swiss watchmaker Longines and SUV maker Land Rover, just two of the luxury brands that sponsor horsemanship events in China, salivate over the country's up-and-coming "polo class".

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