In what will be a treat for equestrian connoisseurs, the Longines Arena at Al Shaqab will host two top quality events on consecutive weekends. Starting Thursday for three days, Al Shaqab, a member of Qatar Foundation, will play host to the prestigious Commercial Bank CHI Al Shaqab Presented by Longines. The following weekend, the opening round of the 2021 Longines Global Champions Tour will be held.
The indoor arena of the Longines Arena at Al Shaqab is all decked up
The five-star CHI AL Shaqab is being held for the eighth time, and the much-anticipated event will see riders participate in the Olympic disciplines of showjumping, dressage, and para dressage besides the local equestrian series Longines Hathab from Thursday till Saturday.
Despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the organisers have ensured the events will take place, which is a testament Qatar’s organisation skills. In line with the Ministry of Public Health’s Covid-19 health and safety guidelines, the venue capacity will be restricted to 10 percent but there will not be a festival area this year.
There will be a total of 85 riders from 27 countries and 138 horses from overseas in action this weekend. Leading the field will be World No. 4 Peder Fredrickon of Sweden, with Scott Brash of Britain, Germany’s Marcus Ehning and Daniel Deusser, Canada’s Eric Lamaze, Belgium’s Gregory Wathelet and Pieter Devos, Frenchmen Kevin Staut and Julien Epaillard and Edwina Tops-Alexander of Australia making up the high-quality field.
Qatar’s challenge will be led Sultan Salmeen al-Suwaidi. The 25-year-old, who won the 2018 His Highness the Amir Sword, will partner with his trusted mount Aslan 69. Al-Suwaidi, who is a regular in the Big Tour class of the Longines Hathab, will relish the opportunity of competing along with world’s top riders. The Qatari rider will be competing in the CHI Al Shaqb for the fourth time and has been sharpening his skills in Italy recently.
Al-Suwaidi will only have a limited local crowd to root for him, but the action-packed event will be telecast on Alkass Channel and also streamed live in the Al Shaqab website.
“We are proud of the work we have achieved to host this event despite prevailing Covid-19. We have done everything to secure safety of everyone and followed ministry advice thoroughly,” said Omar Al Mannai, Event Director, Commercial Bank CHI AL Shaqab Presented by Longines, and Commercial Manager, Al Shaqab.
“Qatar is an example of hosting sporting event during the pandemic. Thanks to the wise leadership we are conducting international events successfully. We have achieved the level of professionalism to host any event. Ten percent of fan presence may sound small but this arena is large and hence it would still be sizeable,” he added.
A strict health protocols is in place with a ‘bio bubble’ created for all participants and those working towards the event. “Let me assure you, great efforts have been made to host the event at this time. We have received support from our partners. We have always wanted to host this event. It will be a good and enjoyable event for fans in addition to those who will follow it on television and social media channels,” said Al Mannai.
Meanwhile, Belgium Olympic rider Olivier Philippaerts said he was thrilled to back in Doha and was excited to compete in next two weekends. “I took off to Doha last Saturday and had to stay quarantined in the hotel room until I got my test results”, he said.
Philippaerts explained the strict safety measures adopted by the organisers. “The next two weeks, I’ll be traveling up and down between the hotel and the equestrian centre. Those are the only two places where we’re allowed to go at the moment. We get a new test every three days, on top of the other measurements taken here like wearing mouth masks, social distancing and washing hands with hand sanitizer,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to ride some competitions on this level again. It is not just that they have the best riders participating, but also their organization is on point. Maybe even better now during the pandemic than before. The organizers do everything to continue our sport. That motivates and helps us feel safe,” he added.
12:00-15.45: Indoor Arena: Para Dressage CPEDI3* Team Test
15:00-17:00: Outdoor Arena: Jumping CSI5* 1.45m/Special Two-Phase
17:45-20:00: Outdoor Arena: Jumping CSI5* 1.55m/ Faults & Time
18:00-20:45: Indoor Arena: Longines Hathab-Dressage L1 & L2
9:00-11:00: Outdoor Arena: Longines Hathab - Small Tour 1.15m/Special Two-Phase
9:15-12:45: Indoor Arena: Para Dressage CPEDI 3* Individual Championship Test
13:00-15:00: Outdoor Arena: Longines Hathab - Medium Tour 1.35m/One Round
15:00-18:00: Indoor Arena Dressage CDI 5* Grand Prix Test
15:45-17:15: Outdoor Arena: Jumping CSI 5* 1.60m/Jump Off
8.30-9:15: Indoor Arena: Dressage CDI 5* Grand Priz Special
10:00-13.30: Indoor Arena: Para-Dressage CPEDI 3* Freestyle Test
10:15-12:15: Outdoor Arena: Longines Hathab - Open Class 1.25m/One Round
13:30-14:45: Outdoor Arena: Longines Hathab - Big Tour 1.45m/One Round + Jump Off
14:15-16:45: Indoor Arena: Dressage- Commercial Bank CHI Al Shaqab presented by Longines Grand Prix Freestyle
15:30-16:30: Outdoor Arena: Jumping CSI 5* 1.45m/Table C
17:30-20:00: Outdoor Arena: Commercial Bank CHI Al Shaqab presented by Longines Grand Prix 1.60m/Two Rounds+Jump Off