Wed, March 25, 2009
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Elephant Polo tournament kicks off

2009-03-25 02:32:00 GMT2009-03-25 10:32:00 (Beijing Time)  Reuters

A dozen teams from all over the world flew in to participate in the annual King's Cup Elephant Polo tournament in Thailand.

Thai elephants are huge, intelligent and fast and the best place to see them up close and personal is at the King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament.

In just seven years, the tournament has evolved from a simple two-day event to a festive week-long one.

Raising money for the National Elephant Institute, it opens with an eyepopping parade and ends in style with a charitable dinner.

James Manclark, co-founder of the World Elephant Polo Association.

SOUNDBITE: (English) JAMES MANCLARK, CO-FOUNDER OF WORLD ELEPHANT POLO ASSOCIATION, SAYING:

"It's important that even we if are in a depression, that we can have fun and do something, that makes other people enjoy."

Considered a sport for the rich, the game is a variant of the more popular polo, but sees the players riding elephants instead of horses. And unique as the elephant itself, the tournament brings together local and international polo players.

SOUNDBITE: (English) AUDEMARS PIGUET PLAYER ANGAD KALAAN, SAYING:

"Over the years it's (the game) has grown so much. I mean one would never expect it to reach this stage, where we have 12 teams taking part in this tournament from all over the world and it gets the kind of coverage, through world press and all the magazine.''

Each elephant carries two people -the player and the mahout, who steers the animal.

Also, while the regular polo ball is used, mallets are two metres long because the players are higher off the ground.

Neena Dhaun, Reuters.

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