Tough Act to Follow: 2006 Asian Games Torch Was Lit by Galloping Sheikh on Horseback

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You really shouldn't need a translator to understand what's going on here: theater! in the name of sports and on the grandest of scales!

How time flies! It was just four years ago that the opening ceremony of the 15th Asian Games lit up YouTubewith an amazingly theatrical equestrian mountain-scaling exhibition by an Arabian named Malibu and the young Sheikh Mohammed Bin Hamad Al-Thani, a son of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani.

Horse and rider rose from the floor of the stadium enclosed in a sun crown, which opened to reveal them inside. They stepped out, a prayer was said, they saluted the Emir, and they cantered toward a 26-degree ramp that had been built up the sheer face of the stadium.

The problem with the stunt (and this was, indeed, a stunt, at the core of a solemn and spectacular ceremony based on Arab tradition and lore) was that it had rained. It never rains in Qatar so there was no contingency plan for damp footing. But the ramp was wet, the horse slipped, and the beautiful steed, the handsome prince and the gaseous torch almost toppled over the edge.

They had practiced this for months, beginning out in the desert with ramps built by earthmovers. But they had never dreamed it would rain.

photo ? 2006 paula le dieu | more info (via: Wylio)

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The young sheikh and the Arabian horse rose from the floor of the stadium inside a crown that opened like a rose. They calmly rode forward to greet the sheikh's father, the Emir of Qatar. A prayer was said.

photo ? 2006 paula le dieu | more info (via: Wylio)

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Is this what the Tevis Cup is like? The sheikh and Malibu cantered toward the first ramp up the wall of the stadium. The second ramp had a pitch of 26 degrees, according to Australian horse trainer Steven Jefferys. They had been practicing, of course.

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No one had imagined that it might rain in Qatar. The horse still managed to climb the ramp, but seemed to slip near the top. The crowd gasped. Would they make it?

It's now four years later and the 16th Asian Games have just opened. How could they top that act? They didn't even try.

Since the 16th Asian Games might not be on your radar screen, I thought I'd let you know that they are are going on right now, and that you can (sort of) follow them on the Internet if you're motivated. The Chinese government doesn't use the same web sites that we do, so it's not obvious how to find any video, other than on the official website, which currently doesn't seem interested in the equestrian sports.

You may not be familiar with the riders or the horses, but if you are interested in the future of equestrianism, it's worth paying attention to these Games. And with 45 nations, 42 sports and 12,000 athletes involved, there is plenty about the entire 16th Asian Games that is worth your attention.

The Games are being held in Guangzhou, China. Formerly known as Canton, Guangzhou has a population of 12 million, and every one of them is happy tonight that China was second in dressage today to the expected winner, South Korea. Malaysia was third.

Don't feel too badly for China in second place; they have already won 49 gold medals and the Games are only in their second day!

Korea has dominated dressage at the Asian Games recently. This year they were exceptionally motivated to win for the memory of Korean eventer Kim Hyung Chil, who was killed in the eventing cross-country at Doha four years ago. No, he wasn't scaling a mountainside. He just had a bad fall. His horse had to be euthanized as well. His nephew was one of the riders on the 2010 South Korean dressage team.

The eventing gets underway soon and there will surely be interesting news this week from Guangzhou.
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Thanks to Paula Le Dieu for the use of her photos.

by Fran Jurga | The Jurga Report at Equisearch.com
Be friends withFran Jurga on Facebook.com

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