FIRST TIMERS BANGKOK BANK upset all expectations at the 12th annual King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament to take top honors in an action-packed final game, defeating Mercedes Benz 13-10.
This year’s tournament, held at Hua Hin, was attracted teams from all over the world and was presided over by the King of Thailand’s royal representative, Privy Councillor Real Admiral Mom Luang Usni Pramoj.
Both teams included international polo players, but it was Bangkok Bank, captained by former Olympian James Manclark with his younger team mates Alister Archibald and Michael Goodwin.
The 2012 edition also saw the New Zealand All Blacks’ Robin Brooke, Olo Brown and Charlie Riechelmann go head-to-head with Tiffany Show Pattaya’s ladyboy team. Thailand’s famous trans-gender cabaret, who also entertained guests with a specially choreographed show at the Moulin Rouge-themed gala dinner.
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.
Anantara Hua Hin Resort & Spa played host a gathering of dignitaries and celebrities, with the final night’s auction raising over four million Thai Baht, taking the total raised to date by the tournament to US$ 750,000.
Fifty street elephants took part in this year’s tournament, during which they are well fed, provided with a native forest environment, and receive essential vitamin supplements, full veterinary checks and care for the duration of the event.
Street life can be tough for an elephant, walking through crowded tourist areas and busy roads for 10 hours a night, forced to rest during the day on small green spaces within the cities, often without shade and water. The King’s Cup schedule is deliberately designed to give these elephants rest and relaxation on a scale they are never afforded in their ‘normal’ lives.
Lead sponsors for the event were Audemars Piguet, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas and this year, for the first time on Saturday, the tournament celebrated was Ladies Day, with the best dressed lady winning a holiday to Anantara in the Maldives.
Admission to the event was free and offered something for everyone, kicking off with an opening ceremony overseen by Thailand’s last ‘elephant spirit men’ (Kru Ba Yai), traditional dancers, a baby elephant camp, plus the daily trunk-to-trunk action on the pitch.