Hua Hin, September 16-21, 2003
Thailand's jumbo heavyweights bully off
It's a game of two-ton mounts, two metre-long mallets and one small white ball and from 16th to 21st September in Hua Hin, it all adds up to the third annual King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament.
This year's tournament, organised by the Anantara Resort and Spa and supported by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, is the biggest yet. Twelve international teams will be taking part, fielding a range of polo prowess - from international horse polo players and elephant polo champions to Q-Bar DJ's and have-a-go novices. Spectator admission to all the games is free of charge.
In 2002 it was Mercedes Benz Thailand's German team, an unstoppable trio of horse polo playing brothers, who took the King's Cup home to Hamburg. This year the Germans are coming back to defend their title, playing against a line up which includes past champions Chivas Regal, American Express Thailand, PricewaterhouseCoopers WEPA Nepal, Nokia Thailand, King's Royal Hussars, Tickle and the Ivories, Q-Bar, Mullis Capital Singapore, Sandalford Winery Australia, the Screwless Tuskers and the Thaigem.com ladies - a team of the world's top women elephant polo players.
The tournament will be launched on Saturday 13th September with two 'fun' matches - The Bangkok Post vs The Nation followed by The Celebrity Cup when two teams of celebrities will battle it out to claim the trophy. The tournament proper starts on Tuesday 16th September with an elephant parade of all the teams and an exhibition match.
The Charity Gala Dinner will be held on Saturday 21st September at the Anantara Resort and Spa with the theme of 'A Day at the Races'. For the fundraising auction, the organisers got extra creative and this year's biddable packages include a weekend in the world's fastest C-Class Mercedes, a weekend learning how to be a hot-air balloon pilot in Chiang Mai and an hour's tennis lesson with Thai tennis superstar Paradorn Srichaphan.
The 2003 King's Cup Elephant Polo finals will be held on Sunday 21st September and will be an all-day affair with a Jazz Brunch and music by The Big Band. The final match for the King's Cup trophy will take place at 3pm.
As in previous years, the event will raise money for the National Elephant Institute - an indispensable and dedicated organisation under the auspices of the Thai government, which provides welfare, sustenance, medical care and employment for Thailand's elephants and mahouts. The 2002 tournament raised a record one million Baht (US$24,000/UKú15,000) for the institute. This year the goal is to raise 1.5 million Baht, says William Heinecke, CEO of Royal Garden Resorts, owner of the Anantara Resort and Spa.
Attending the tournament will be members of the National Elephant Institute's elephant orchestra and the paintbrush-wielding elephants, whose artworks regularly sell at auction for up to US$800.
Played according to World Elephant Polo Association rules, the Thailand tournament is played with three elephants per team on a pitch that is one-third the size of a horse polo field. A game is comprised of two 7-minute chukkas.
Tickets for the gala dinner cost THB 4,500++ per person and tickets for the Jazz Brunch THB 800++ per person. Tickets are available from the Anantara Resort and Spa on 0 3252 0250.
For anyone wanting to make a week of it, the Anantara Resort and Spa is offering a special 5-night/6-day elephant polo package for the duration of the tournament which includes 5 nights double-occupancy accommodation, daily buffet breakfast, transportation to and from the elephant polo field, 2 tickets to the gala dinner on Saturday 20th September, 2 tickets to the champagne jazz brunch being held at the elephant polo field on finals day and 8pm late check out on Sunday 21st September. Prices start from US$739++ for two people sharing.