Saudi Arabia makes history with AlUla Desert Polo match

The Winter at Tantora festival will feature a special polo event that is played on sand rather than the usual grass. (Photo/Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 04 February 2020

Saudi Arabia makes history with AlUla Desert Polo match

  • It is the first event of its kind to be played on sand, and first organized by the Saudi Polo Federation

JEDDAH: A very special equestrian event this week will break new ground not only for Saudi Arabia but for global sport.

AlUla Desert Polo is the first official polo event to be played on a field of sand, rather than the more usual grass. It is also the first match organized in association with the Saudi Polo Federation, which was formed in July 2018.

However, as federation chairman Amr Zedan explained, the inspiration for the event, which will take place from Jan. 16 to 18 as part of the Winter at Tantora festival, comes from a very different environment.

“It’s inspired by the snow polo event in St. Moritz,” he said. “AlUla Desert Polo is a unique event in both Saudi and global terms.”

Zedan, who has played polo around the world for 20 years, established the Zedan Polo Team in 2005. However, this week’s event is particularly special to him, as he hopes it will help to promote the sport in the Kingdom, encourage young people to give it a go and provide a solid foundation for its future growth in the country, which is something he is passionate about.

“From my perspective, the highlight of AlUla Desert Polo is the power that sport has to instigate positive change in society,” he said.

Zedan believes the Saudi Vision 2030 initiative to develop and diversify the country’s economy and society has helped to make great strides in the development of many sports, including polo.

“Saudi Arabia has a great pool of untapped talent in all sporting arenas,” he said, adding that a growing number of Saudi equestrians have excelled in international competitions around the world.

“We know that many young Saudis love horses and we want to give them a chance to become involved in what is an exciting and rewarding sport. This event brings the world’s best.”

First played as long ago as the 6th century BC, according to some historians, polo is one of the oldest equestrian sports in the world. Two teams of four players on horseback use mallets with long handles to attempt to hit a wooden ball into the opposition’s goal. The desert sands of AlUla not only provide a different type of terrain on which to play, but the ancient, historic location is an unusually stunning venue.

“Polo has never been played against such a unique, spectacular and unspoiled backdrop before,” said Zedan. “AlUla is an ancient, UNESCO World Heritage site, with very strong links to the horse heritage that runs throughout Saudi Arabia. It will be an outstanding event, one that the people who play in it and watch it will never forget.”

The safety and welfare of the horses is paramount, given the unusual venue and surface. Zedan said that experts have been brought in to prepare a playing surface that is suitable and safe for the animals, without damaging the unspoiled landscape of AlUla’s sandstone outcrops.

“This game has given me so much pleasure over the years and I feel great satisfaction in being able to now share this passion with the people of Saudi Arabia,” he added. “In addition, I am from the Madinah Al-Munawara region, of which AlUla is a part, so this event is something of a homecoming for me.”

The rebirth of AlUla
Hegra, ancient city of the Nabataeans in Saudi Arabia’s historic AlUla Valley, is emerging from the mists of time to take its rightful place as one of the wonders of the world

Enter


keywords

 


The Open canceled for first time since World War II due to virus

Updated 06 April 2020

The Open canceled for first time since World War II due to virus

  • The 149th Open was scheduled to take place at Royal St. George’s Golf Club in Kent in July
  • Both this year’s Masters and the PGA Championship were postponed in March because of the health crisis

LONDON: The Open has been canceled for the first time since World War II due to the coronavirus.
The 149th Open was scheduled to take place at Royal St. George’s Golf Club in Kent in July.
But with the pandemic ripping the 2020 sporting schedule to shreds, the event has became the first of the sport’s four majors to be canceled this year.
Golf’s oldest major will now be hosted at the same Sandwich venue in July 2021.
“The Open was due to be played in Kent from 12-19 July but it has been necessary to cancel the championship based on guidance from the UK Government, the health authorities, public services and the R&A’s advisers,” organizers R&A said in a statement on Monday.
St. Andrews will still host the 150th Open, but a year later than scheduled in 2022.
“Our absolute priority is to protect the health and safety of the fans, players, officials, volunteers and staff involved in the Open. We care deeply about this historic championship and have made this decision with a heavy heart,” R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said.
“We have explored every option for playing The Open this year but it is not going to be possible.
“We rely on the support of the emergency services, local authorities and a range of other organizations to stage the Championship and it would be unreasonable to place any additional demands on them when they have far more urgent priorities to deal with.
“We appreciate that this will be disappointing for a great many people around the world but we have to act responsibly during this pandemic and it is the right thing to do.”
The Open is the latest high-profile tournament to be axed because of the virus.
Wimbledon was canceled for the first time since World War II last week, while Euro 2020 and the Olympics have been pushed back a year until 2021.
Ireland’s Shane Lowry won last year’s Open at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.
“Obviously I’m disappointed that I won’t get to defend the Open Championship this year but I feel the R&A have made the right decisions based on people’s health and safety. See you all in Royal St. George’s in 2021,” Lowry tweeted.
Royal St. George’s has hosted the Open 14 times, most recently in 2011, when Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke won the event.
Both this year’s Masters and the PGA Championship were postponed in March because of the health crisis.
It is believed organizers still hope to play those events later in the year.
The US Open is currently set to be played from June 18-21 at Winged Foot in New York.
However, the United States Golf Association (USGA) is expected to announce a decision on staging the tournament soon.