Olympic Horse Venues Show Focus on Comfort, Safety, Environment

As the equestrian events of the 2008 Olympic Games draw ever-closer, it is time to take a look at the venues and facilities provided by the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) which will ensure that the jumping, dressage, and eventing horses and riders compete in optimal conditions.

Significant construction work, a world-class laboratory, 5-star stabling, a first-class veterinary clinic, mobile horse-cooling units, and green waste management are just some of the principle features. These Games are breaking new ground in terms of attention to detail at every level. Innovative and well-established ideas are combining to create a safe, clean, and functional sporting environment.

The HKJC has invested more than HK$1.2 billion (more than $153 million U.S.) in creating venues and facilities for the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic equestrian events. Construction work has included the modification of the Hong Kong Sports Institute which is located next to HKJC headquarters at Sha Tin Racecourse on the outskirts of the city. At Penfold Park, which lies at the very centre of Sha-Tin racetrack, a training and competition area has been developed.

The club has also provided facilities at the Hong Kong Golf Club and the Beas River Country Club for the cross-country phase of the Eventing discipline.

The venue was handed over by the HKJC to the organizers of the Olympic equestrian events (the Equestrian Company) for a final dress-up on May 26.

Sha Tin

The main competition arena is located at Sha Tin and has a seating capacity of about 18,000 with a supporting warm-up arena. A total of 13 ancillary training rings include two for general use, five for dressage, four for both dressage and jumping, one specifically for jumping only, and an indoor air-conditioned ring. Penfold Park also embraces an 800m cross-country training track and schooling area along with a 1,200m all-weather bridle path and a turf gallop.

Office and hospitality areas are available at the Hong Kong Sports Institute, but one of the most talked-about developments has been at the Olympic stable complex.

stalls at Hong Kong Olympic equestrian venue

The stalls at the Olympic equestrian venue in Hong Kong.


Construction started here in July 2006 and by May 2007 four blocks of air-conditioned stables, totaling 225 stalls, were completed and ready to accommodate 200 horses while another 25 have been set aside for reserves. Each stall measures 3.6 x 3.6 meters (11.8 feet), which is bigger than normal Olympic standard, and each unit measures 6.4 meters (20 feet) at its highest point. The barns are designed to maximize the benefits of the 24-hour air-conditioning system which will have a set temperature of 23 °C (73.4°F). Cool and hot air will be prevented from exiting or entering the stable blocks by the provision of an air curtain, while additional circulation will be provided by ceiling fans and the louvered ceiling windows and stall-windows can be opened in case of air-conditioning breakdown.

Each stable will have an automatic waterer and a revolving feed bowl, and each block will have ice-making machines producing 250 lbs of ice per day--an important ingredient in the cooling of horses after exercise.

For the first time ever at an Olympic venue a rolling box, filled with sand and measuring 20.5 square meters (67 feet), will be provided to allow horses the opportunity to relax, stretch, and play.

Security measures include 24-hour closed-circuit television covering all areas and security sensors at entry to each stable, which will trigger an alarm in the event of an after-hours break-in.

Staying Green

Wide walkways will be an important component of the stable blocks and, in keeping with the "Green" initiative of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, these will be made from recycled tires as will the stable floors. Wood engineered from sustainable bamboo has been used in the construction of the stable blocks and all organic stable wastes including manure, food waste, and bedding--straw, wood shavings, and newspaper--will be collected and recycled using a vermicomposting process to produce organic fertilizer. This process was first put into action during the test event last August. Each day, 10 tons of waste from the Olympic stables went to the recycling plant where it was fed to earthworms. This August 100% of stable wastes from the Sha Tin Olympic venue will go through similar treatments and it is anticipated that more than 30 tons will be processed each day.

During site construction some 90% of trees at the Hong Kong Sports Institute were retained in their original positions while others were transplanted. At both the cross-country and core venues, 500 new trees and some 17,000 new shrubs were planted while fewer than 50 trees were felled, mostly because they were diseased or dying. Building work inside Penfold Park was sequenced to minimize the impact on the habitat of its resident bird population of egrets during their breeding season, and energy-saving lighting systems will be in operation in both the stabling arena and in the main and training arenas.

Hong Kong Olympic equestrian facilities

The layout of the main Olympic equestrian facilities in Hong Kong.

Veterinary Services

The HKJC will make its equine hospital facilities and services available for emergency operations during the Olympic and Paralympic periods. Its operating theatre, anesthetic and recovery rooms, and clinical laboratory will be on call along with the 44-strong team that includes veterinarians, nurses, laboratory technicians, administrative staff, and farriers. A separate equine clinic for diagnosis and treatment during the quarantine and games period has also been built at the Olympic venue. Adjacent to the main stabling compound, it has two examination rooms, a dedicated pharmacy, and 10 observation stables.

A forge and shoeing bays are situated beside the veterinary facility.


Another "first" for the 2008 equestrian Olympic Games in Hong Kong is the provision of a world-class on-site laboratory. The internationally acclaimed Racing Laboratory at the Hong Kong Jockey Club will test equine samples for the presence of prohibited substances and will offer elective testing to teams so that samples can be assessed for the presence of medication, such as that used for travel sickness.

With a staff of 43 and equipment worth in the region of $8 million U.S., the laboratory conducts tests on over 18,000 equine samples a year and is the FEI's sole reference laboratory in Asia.

Mobile Cooling Units

The welfare of the horse is, as always, paramount and state-of-the-art mobile cooling units are expected to play an important role in assisting the equine athletes throughout the games. Manned by veterinary staff, they can be quickly put into operation and will be placed at strategic locations around the eventing cross-country course at Beas River Country Club and the adjacent golf course in Sheung Shui.

The Legacy

After the 2008 Olympics, facilities at the Hong Kong Sports Institute will be refurbished and upgraded to provide a much-improved training environment for Hong Kong's athletes. Sand footings from the equestrian arenas will be re-used to upgrade local riding school facilities and Penfold Park will be retained for public as an interactive equine park.

The HKJC is planning to build a museum there to promote Olympism and to commemorate Hong Kong's historic hosting of the 2008 Olympic equestrian events.--Louise Parkes

Thanks to the Hong Kong Jockey Club for supplying the information.

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