Thailand’s highly popular King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament returns to the hills in 2008. Event organiser Anantara Resorts announced that the 2008 tournament will take place from March 31 to April 6 in the northernmost region of the country known as the Golden Triangle.
This year’s event is sponsored by Audemars Piguet, one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious watchmakers, and will see 12 teams go trunk to trunk to win the coveted King’s Cup trophy.
A blessing ceremony will be held before the opening match where monks sprinkle holy water over both players and animals to ensure a successful tournament. In addition, a parade of northern traditional-style dancers, hill-tribe villagers in traditional costume, elephant spirit men (Khru Ba Yai), colourfully decorated pachyderms and teams holding up their respective country flags will kick off the weeklong competition held on the banks of the Ruak River which divides Thailand from Burma.
During the first six years of the tournament, the event took place in the Royal seaside town of Hua Hin before moving to the native home of elephants in 2006 - the Golden Triangle. The tournament was introduced to Thailand in 2001 by Anantara Resorts and is a charitable event that raises money for the country’s National Elephant Institute in Lampang, northern Thailand.
In just six years the King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament has gone from a small two-day event with six teams into a week-long extravaganza, which in 2006 featured 10 teams from three continents encompassing 40 players from at least 15 countries.
Through its own Elephant Camp located within the grounds of the Anantara Resort Golden Triangle, the property’s focus on the future of Thailand’s pachyderm population forms an integral part of the resort’s operations. On an ongoing basis, resident Elephant Camp Director, John Roberts, works closely with the Thai government’s Elephant Conservation Centre in Lampang to develop Anantara’s camp as an elephant sanctuary.
To date the tournament has raised over US$175,000 for the National Elephant Institute, which provides medical care, sustenance, employment, and mahout training to Thailand’s elephant population. In 2006 the funds were used to custom build a much needed ambulance, the first of its kind in the country. It is estimated that Thailand has around 2,500 domesticated elephants and 1,500 wild elephants. This is down from an elephant population of around 50,000 in 1950 and 100,000 in 1900.
In 2006, the coveted King’s Cup came to a dramatic close as ThisistheLife.com Scotland clinched the title from Mercedes during a ‘sudden death’ play-off after a draw at full time.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) fully endorses the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament, having identified it as one of the country’s prime annual special events. It will take place in the grounds of Anantara Resort Golden Triangle, and spectator entrance is free.