After four days of fun festivities and trunk to trunk action, the 13th annual King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament came to a close on Sunday. Taking place in Bangkok for the first time, 16 teams with players from around the world showcased skillful play and created many memorable on-pitch moments, with the tournament resulting in new King’s Cup champions.
Sunday’s final, which was presided over by the King of Thailand’s royal representative, Privy Councilor Real Admiral Mom Luang Usni Pramoj, saw King Power Duty Free and Audemars Piguet go head to head in a penalty shoot out, with a thrilling ‘sudden death’ play-off finally clinching the win for King Power.
The tournament was introduced to Thailand in 2001 by Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas and has grown to become one of the biggest charitable events in Thailand, raising funds for projects that better the lives of Thailand’s elephant population. Friday night’s gala dinner at Anantara Bangkok Riverside Resort & Spa hosted a gathering of top dignitaries, players, media and well known celebrities, with the night’s auction raising 4.5 million Thai Baht, taking the total raised to date by the tournament to an impressive US$900,000 (THB 28.7 million).
The tournament took place at the Siam Polo Park at VR Sports Club in Bang Bo, Samut Prakan, with lead sponsors Audemars Piguet, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas. This year’s players included the New Zealand All Blacks’ Mark “Cowboy” Shaw, Olo Brown and Charlie Riechelmann, Thai supermodels and many leading international horse polo players.
A total of 50 street elephants took part in this year’s tournament, during which they were well fed, received essential vitamin supplements, full veterinary checks and care for the duration of the event.
With free admission, the event has something for everyone, kicking off with a spectacular opening parade, with the opening ceremony overseen by Thailand’s last ‘elephant spirit men’ (Kru Ba Yai), traditional dancers, plus the daily trunk-to-trunk action on the pitch.
Day two saw the tournament host two thousand children from schools all over Bangkok. Known as Chang Noi Day (Little Elephant Day), the children were invited to get up close with the elephants and learn more about their national animal. A range of educational walks, games and activities all teaching the benefits of elephant conservation and well being were put on by the organisers.
Saturday was ‘Ladies Day’ or the new ‘Ascot’ of Bangkok. Ladies from all walks of life dressed to impress with the best dressed lady winning a week’s holiday at NIYAMA in the Maldives. The day also saw a ‘High Tea-Off’ competition with three Bangkok hotels competing to be voted the best high tea. On pitch entertainment included Thai bands and a specially choreographed show by Tiffany Show Pattaya, Thailand’s most famous trans-gender cabaret.
The tournament was once again a great success, and is growing year on year as a key event in Thailand’s sporting calendar, each year attracting more sponsors and raising more funds for Thailand’s elephant population. Spectators, players and media came from all corners of the globe, including the USA and Canada, New Zealand, India, all over Europe, the UAE, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, and many local visitors from Bangkok and around Thailand.
Projects to benefit from the 2014 tournament are currently being finalised and will include an extension of the ongoing Thai Elephant Therapy Project being undertaken since 2009 in conjunction with Chiang Mai University Department of Occupational Therapy, with future clinics to include children with Down syndrome and other conditions.
Other significant benefits from money raised by the tournament include: building the first elephant hospital in Krabi in the southern part of Thailand; a THB 500,000 gantry to help lame elephants stand, donated to the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre (TECC); 4,000 trees planted in Hua Hin to shelter elephant corridors from electric fencing in the area; funding the first educational computer application for children to teach them the importance of conservation and protection of wild elephants in Thailand and funding Asia’s first workshop to show traditional elephant trainers and camp owners the benefits of Positive Reinforcement Training for domesticated elephants.
Final Leaderboard for 2014 King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament:
1. King Power Duty Free
2. Audemars Piguet
3.&4. PricewaterhouseCoopers New Zealand All Blacks / The Peninsula
5. Rueang Chang
6. Sara Story Design
7. Anantara Arabian Knights
8. Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas
9.&10 Mekhong tied with Casillero Del Diablo
11.&12.Hendrick’s Gin tied with Bangkok Bank
13. Johnny Walker Blue Label
14. Louis Roederer Hong Kong
16. Mercedes Benz