It’s difficult indeed to find the horses in the official website of the upcoming Hong Kong Masters. Even though the world’s top 25 elite show jumpers and their horses (including Olympic champion Eric Lamaze) will ride at the March 1-3 event the website is saturated with guff about corporate entertainment, fine catering and branding opportunities on offer at the ‘luxurious and prestigious’ event. They may appear an afterthought on the website but riders will compete for a prize fund of US$ 1 million at the competition held at the Asia World-Expo site in the southern Chinese city.
Organised by Asian Equestrian Masters, the Hong Kong Masters is Asia’s first international five-star (CSI5) show jumping event and is clearly being marketed as a social event for the wealth-obsessed city’s numerous moneybags to be seen at.
Backed by the city’s tourism board, the Masters is described thus: “A place for attendees to get up close and personal with the horses, socialites, horse enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike, Hong Kong Masters will prove a distinct social opportunity in Hong Kong, complete with fine dining, shopping and entertainment.” Organisers will fly three-star Michelin chefs to the island, Juan Mari Arzak, to cook for VIPs in the ‘Prestige Village’.
According to organisers Hong Kong is only the second city to host the Masters, an event recognized by the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI): Paris since 2009 while New York will host from 2013. Juan Dedeu, President of Hong Kong Masters, said Hong Kong is an ideal host city since it has both a strong equestrian tradition while being a gataway to Asia with a “mix of both local and international society where you can be making a multimillion deal one day at a coffee shop and the next at a world renowned restaurant.”
Host city of the equestrian events of the 2008 Olympics, Hong Kong will put on a top show promises Dr. Simon Ip, President of Hong Kong Equestrian Federation which cursiously doesn’t feature the event – at least not openly- on its website.
There’s also a vaguely termed charity aspect: ‘Furthermore, the Hong Kong Masters will show a strong commitment to the Riding for the Disabled charity. A first for the Masters, raised donations will be a key driving success factor in 2012.’