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Hong Kong on track for equestrian events
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Hong Kong will deploy 4,000 police officers to ensure tight security at the Olympic equestrian competition, its police chief said yesterday.

Commissioner Tang King-shing said the police department has spent the past two years drawing up a security plan for the equestrian event, which is scheduled for Aug 9-21.

"We need to examine and prepare for everything, from the best to the worst," Tang said.

Two days in the equestrian schedule have been pinpointed for subtropical summer weather contingencies that could interrupt events, a spokesman said yesterday in Beijing.

Two days around Aug 20 have been picked out for the staging of any events that may have been postponed, Mark Pinkstone, head of media services with Equestrian Company, which is in charge of organizing the Olympic equestrian events, told China Daily.

Hong Kong's subtropical summer heat and humidity top the list of concerns for the equestrian events, he said.

They have also necessitated complicated designs for stables and course conditions, such as drainage systems that rid venues of water rapidly enough to ensure the earth is dry enough for horse jumping.

Stables, each measuring 3.6 m by 3.6 m, and horse boxes are either air-conditioned or equipped with electric fans. Horse ambulances and veterinary surgeons will also be strategically placed along the courses, Pinkstone said.

A test event held last August involving international horses and riders went smoothly despite extreme weather conditions that included a typhoon as well as extreme heat, he said.

Horses that participated in the dummy run were in good condition, and trainers, riders and the National Olympic Committee were all satisfied, he said.

But organizers have already made emergency plans in case of very bad weather, he said.

"If it rains hard enough to put horses' safety at risk or sabotage the drainage system, we might postpone the event for one or two hours. It all depends."

The organizers of the equestrian events will also conduct doping tests on horses before each event, which will set a precedent in Olympic history, he said.

In the past, such tests were carried out after horses have competed.

Hong Kong has invested 1 billion yuan ($147 million) over the past two years in transforming the dilapidated stadium in Sha Tin district into a top-class equestrian venue.

It has capacity for 18,000 spectators and is equipped with 228 stables, Pinkstone said.

Ninety percent of equestrian event tickets have already been sold, he said.

Agencies contributed to the story

(China Daily July 17, 2008)

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