HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong’s summer heat posed little risk to horses in the 2008 Olympic equestrian events and the Swiss dressage team’s pullout would have no effect on the Games, the body organizing the equine events said on Thursday.
Olympic equestrian events were switched from host city Beijing to Hong Kong because of difficulties in establishing a disease-free zone on the mainland.
The Swiss Equestrian Federation said in a statement it was pulling its Olympics dressage team out of the event on Hong Kong due to concerns the city’s sub-tropical heat and humidity could harm the horses.
The decision to withdraw came after the pullout of its top dressage rider, World No. 4 Silvia Ikle, to protect her mount Salieri CH given “difficulties linked to transport and specific climatic conditions” in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong equestrian officials said the Swiss pullout would not tarnish the event.
“We’re not worried at all, it’ll have no effect whatsoever on the Games,” said Mark Pinkstone, a spokesman with the Equestrian Company organizing the Olympics events.
Pinkstone added that a test event last August involving international horses and riders had gone without a hitch, with vets and riders generally satisfied with the weather.
“We have all the evidence that heat is not a factor, all the other federations throughout the world understand that,” he said.
The Swiss Equestrian Federation did not make clear in its statement whether Swiss riders in other equestrian events such as show jumping and eventing would travel to Hong Kong or not.
Hong Kong is among a select clutch of Chinese cities outside Beijing that will have an Olympic role, including Qingdao for water sports.
Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by Peter Rutherford