Fifty top riders and nearly 100 world-class horses will gather in the city for the 2015 Longines Global Champions Tour Shanghai Grand Prix, which starts today in front of Shanghai Art Museum.
It’s the second year Shanghai hosts the five-star equestrian show-jumping event — the fourth leg of the 2015 season after previous legs in Miami Beach, Antwerp and Madrid.
Top-ranked riders in the FEI rankings, including Scott Brash, Ludger Beerbaum and Kent Farrington, have all confirmed they will compete at the Shanghai event. The lineup of riders includes over 10 Olympic medalists, as well as medal winners from world and European championships.
“Last year’s Shanghai event has set the standard for all other organizing cities around the world,” said Marco Danese, sport director of GCT, who was impressed by the tour’s China debut.
After the early season Grand Prix showdowns in Miami Beach, Antwerp and Madrid, the competition on the circuit is already intense and the world’s top riders are determined to dominate and take the coveted series title in November after the final leg in Qatar.
Last year’s event in Shanghai attracted more than 26,000 spectators over three days. Pieter Devos, astride his horse Dream of India Greenfield, became the star of the inaugural Global Champions Tour Shanghai Grand Prix after the Belgian won the main 1.6-meter event.
According to organizer Shanghai Juss Event, a mini European town will be set up in the event’s avenue in Pudong this year as an attraction for fans while marking the 40th anniversary of the establishment of China-Europe relations.
“Equestrian originated in Europe. We will decorate part of the venue into a European town to bring our audience closer to genuine equestrian culture,” said Yang Yibin, event director of Juss Event.
According to Yang, dairy products, fruits, flowers, wines, homemade cookies and bread will be sold in the mini European town. An exhibition featuring equestrian clothing, training facilities and related products will be held throughout the event, which ends on Sunday.
This year, Fly Emirates Airline is in charge of transporting the horses from Europe to Shanghai. It’s one of only three airlines able to modify its aircraft for transportation of the expensive animals.
The company will send a Boeing 777 aircraft to ferry the horses in two groups. Although the plane has capacity for 103 tons, or 72 horses at a time, at most 48 horses will be taken at a time to ensure a comfortable environment for the animals.
The horses from Europe, the US and Qatar will undergo quarantine inspection in Germany’s Aachen before being gathered in Liege, Belgium, for the trip. The plane will be equipped with 11 escort staff including a veterinarian.
The temperature inside the cabin will be set between 10 to 20 degrees Celsius. The first group of horses arrived in Shanghai on May 2, followed by another on May 4.
The organizer placed an order with a Wuxi-based company this year to build three special vehicles for the horses for the 40-kilometer trip from Pudong International Airport to the venue. Last year, they had to borrow vehicles from Hong Kong.
“We have collected experience from last year and will further improve the organization,” Yang said.
Shanghai has signed a three-year contract with LGCT. “We hope the event will be held in Shanghai in the future,” Yang said. “We created a good start last year, and hopefully the market will be further cultivated.”
The Longines Global Champions Tour was founded in 2006 by Dutch Olympic Team Gold medalist Jan Tops. The series attracts the top ranked riders in the world who compete for ranking points and the highest prize money in the sport.