Elephants the Real Winners as King’s Cup Ends

King’s Cup Draws to a Close in Bangkok

The 13th annual King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament ended on Sunday, after four days of festivities. The local radio station called it “trunk to trunk action.”

It was the first time this event was held in Bangkok. There were 16 teams, and elephant polo players came from around the world to showcase their skillful play on the massive beasts. There were many memorable on-pitch moments, and this year resulted in new King’s Cup champions.

The final, held on Sunday, was presided over by the royal representative of Thailand’s King, Privy Councilor Real Admiral Mom Luang Usni Pramoj. In the final, King Power Duty Free and Audemars Piguet went head to head in a penalty shoot out, and there was a thrilling ‘sudden death’ play-off, in which King Power was the winner.

The King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament was introduced to Thailand in 2001 by Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas. It has become one of the largest and most important charitable events in Thailand, each year raising funds for projects that better the lives of Thailand’s elephant population.

A gala dinner was held at the Anantara Bangkok Riverside Resort & Spa on Friday evening after the day’s events. The resort hosted many dignitaries, players, media and well known celebrities. There was an auction that helped raise almost a million dollars in total for the event (USD$900,000 = THB 28.7 million). The Auction itself raised 4.5 million Thai Baht.

The tournament took place at the Siam Polo Park at VR Sports Club in Bangkok. The event’s lead sponsors were Audemars Piguet, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas. This year’s players included Mark “Cowboy” Shaw, one of the New Zealand rugby All Blacks, Olo Brown and Charlie Riechelmann, Thai supermodels and many leading international horse polo players.

There were 50 street elephants in this year’s tournament, and organizers report they were all well fed, plus they received essential vitamin supplements, full veterinary checks and care for the duration of the event.

Admission to the event was free, and there was something for everyone, starting with a spectacular opening parade, the opening ceremony overseen by Thailand’s last ‘elephant spirit men’ (Kru Ba Yai), traditional dancers, and trunk-to-trunk action on the pitch each day.

thai street elephants feeding.
Thai street elephants feast at the King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament.

On the second day, two thousand children were in attendance, coming from schools all over Bangkok. Known as Chang Noi Day (Little Elephant Day), the children were invited to get up close with the elephants and learn more about their national animal. Organizers reported that “A range of educational walks, games and activities all teaching the benefits of elephant conservation and well being were put on.”

Saturday was ‘Ladies Day,’ and it is known as the new ‘Ascot’ of Bangkok. Ladies from all walks of life dressed to impress, and there was a competition, with the best dressed lady winning a week’s holiday in the Maldives. Other hotels were part of the fun event, and the ‘High Tea-Off’ competition saw three Bangkok hotels competing to be voted the best high tea.

Also entertaining the crowds throughout the day, there were Thai bands and a specially choreographed show by Tiffany Show Pattaya, Thailand’s most famous trans-gender cabaret.

The tournament was announced a great success. Organizers said the event gets bigger and more successful each year, as it attracts more sponsors and raises more funds for Thailand’s elephants. It is a key event in Thailand’s sporting calendar, attracting more visitors, players and media from all over the world, including the USA and Canada, New Zealand, India, Europe, the UAE, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, plus there are many local visitors from Bangkok and other parts of Thailand.

At the time of writing, a decision had not been made on the projects that would benefit from the event, other than the ongoing Thai Elephant Therapy Project, which started in 2009 in conjunction with Chiang Mai University Department of Occupational Therapy. Organizers said future clinics will include children with Down syndrome and other conditions.

There have been significant benefits from money raised in previous years, including

  • Building the first elephant hospital in Krabi in southern Thailand
  • A THB 500,000 gantry to help lame elephants stand, donated to the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre (TECC)
  • 4,000 trees planted in Hua Hin to shelter elephant corridors from electric fencing in the area
  • Funding the first educational computer application for children to teach them the importance of conservation and protection of wild elephants in Thailand
  • Funding Asia’s first workshop to show traditional elephant trainers and camp owners the benefits of Positive Reinforcement Training for domesticated elephants.

Final Leaderboard for 2014 King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament

1. King Power Duty Free

2. Audemars Piguet

3.&4. PricewaterhouseCoopers New Zealand All Blacks / The Peninsula

5. Rueang Chang

6. Sara Story Design

7. Anantara Arabian Knights

8. Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas

9.&10. Mekhong tied with Casillero Del Diablo

11.&12. Hendrick’s Gin tied with Bangkok Bank

13. Johnny Walker Blue Label

14. Louis Roederer Hong Kong

15. Citibank

16. Mercedes Benz

Mandeep Puri
Mandeep Puri is a freelance writer who has been a Tribune crime reporter, business, sport, entertainment and municipal reporter. Contact Mandeep at his blog mandeeppuri.blogspot.com or at NewsBlaze.