Nearly 70 equine athletes in the Olympic Equestrian Events have landed in Hong Kong over the past three days, stepping off their flights and being whisked by first-class transport to spacious and cool accommodations in Sha Tin. The cosmopolitan horses represent 18 nations including Belgium, Finland, Mexico, Italy, Japan, Sweden, France, South Korea, Russia, Canada and Germany. Marie Johnson, stable manager for German legend and four-time Olympic-gold medallist Ludger Beerbaum, said the horses' transportation, particularly the flight from Amsterdam, was the smoothest she had ever witnessed in more than 50 such trips.
The first batches of priceless horses, which the New York Times has likened to rock stars, arrived from Amsterdam and Atlanta on Saturday. They allowed a few photos to be taken at Hong Kong International Airport but declined to linger for interviews or autograph signing. Ushered into the Hong Kong Jockey Club's air-conditioned floats, they were taken to the Olympic Equestrian Venue in Sha Tin, accompanied by an entourage of Hong Kong police and Jockey Club grooms, veterinarians and mechanics.
"The horses travelled by business class, as each container accommodated just two horses instead of the usual three," said Hong Kong's Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing, referring to the compartments in the Jockey Club floats. "The horses travelled very well. It was a smooth, trouble-free transfer to the venue."
At Sha Tin, each horse checked into an air-conditioned stall of almost 13 square meters, larger than the Olympic standard.
Olympic Veterinary Services Manager Christopher Riggs, also the Jockey Club's head of Veterinary Clinical Services, reported Saturday evening that the horses "are having a good stroll in the shade, a light meal and relaxing in a nice, cool environment." Dr. Thomas Sit, quarantine officer of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, said "the health condition of the horses is excellent" and commented that the horses' quarantine documents were all in order.
In all, around 220 horses competing for 42 nations are traveling on more than 50 airplanes to get to the Games in Hong Kong. "I am confident that transportation of other horses will also be carried out smoothly and safely, to enable the horses to compete in their best condition," Secretary Tsang said.