Equestrianism: Federation opposes Olympic move to Hong Kong

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The Independent Online

The relocation of Olympic equestrian events from Beijing to Hong Kong was presented as a virtual fait accompli during yesterday's final session of the General Assembly of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) at London's Grange City Hotel.

The relocation of Olympic equestrian events from Beijing to Hong Kong was presented as a virtual fait accompli during yesterday's final session of the General Assembly of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) at London's Grange City Hotel.

This was the first time that the move had been put forward as a serious proposition. Not surprisingly, it went down like a lead balloon among the 90 delegates attending.

Speaking for the Beijing Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, Wang Wei put forward a compelling argument for the Hong Kong option. Some 17 equine diseases are, he said, prevalent in Beijing and other Chinese cities so it would not be possible to establish the necessary disease-free zone with a radius of 10km (just over six miles) or a surrounding buffer zone of 22km. The risks might be unacceptable to the owners of horses and there might be quarantine problems on returning the animals to their home countries. He did not explain why the committee had waited until now to mention these difficulties.

Freddie Serperi, the federation's vice-chairman, was far from happy. "The executive board and bureau of the FEI are not for changing the venue," he said, to loud applause. "We want the equestrian events of the Olympic Games to be in Beijing." Representations will be made to the International Olympic Committee before they meet next week.

Britain's Simon Brooks-Ward, the director of the Royal Windsor and Olympia shows who has been appointed as chairman of the FEI's strategic planning committee, will be involved in presenting the Beijing preference to the IOC.

"We have to explore all the options," he said, fully aware that time is running out before the final decision is made.

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