By Sports Reporter/Doha
Al Shaqab is all set to host another prestigious and one of the world’s most popular showjumping series the Longines Global Champions Tour (LGCT) from Thursday till Saturday.
Just a few days after successfully hosting its signature event – the CHI Al Shaqab, the Longines Arena at Al Shaqab, one of the finest equestrian facilities in the world, will see world’s top riders battling for top honours in the opening leg of the LGCT.
As many as 48 international riders will be in action in the CSI5* event with some of the most dominant names on the circuit including last week’s CHI Al Shaqab Grand Prix winner Christian Ahlmann of Germany. He will be joined by Pieter Devos (BEL), Marcus Ehning (GER), Maikel van der Vleuten (NED), Penelope Leprevost (FRA), Peder Fredricson (SWE), Christian Ahlmann (GER), Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS), Gregory Wathelet (BEL) and Eric Lamaze (CAN).
And with a golden ticket for the Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix at the GC Prague Playoffs in the forefront of everyone’s mind, the stars of show jumping will be pulling out all the stops to try and land themselves on top of the podium in Doha.
The event was launched with a press conference near the outdoor riding arena at Al Shaqab. It was addressed by Omar al-Mannai, Event Director, and Commercial Manager at Al Shaqab, Jan Tops, President and Founder of LGCT and GCL and Marco Danese, Sports Director of LGCT.
Welcoming top riders from across the globe, Omar al-Mannai, said: “This is the third year that Al Shaqab is hosting the LGCT season opener, having previously hosted the championship finale, and it is a wonderful and prestigious honor to have the world’s leading five-star showjumping competition in Doha again.
“Events such as the Longines Global Champions Tour and Commercial Bank CHI Al Shaqab Presented by Longines, held back-to-back at Al Shaqab, support Qatar’s National Vision 2030 and play a key role in promoting Qatar’s development in the area of equestrian sports. It also reflects a commitment from Qatar at a national level to support equestrian sports.
“These events bear testament to Qatar’s position as an international sports destination, and showcases Al Shaqab as a premier competition venue bar none. International equestrian champions love competing at Al Shaqab’s world-class facilities, and are always keen to return for our events,” he added.
The LGCT opener provides a huge relief to riders and the global organisers since the ongoing pandemic and the European winter has meant no action for the sport. Doha brings a big welcome and relief.
“The achievement of hosting LGCT is especially noteworthy during a pandemic such as Covid-19, which has affected sporting events around the entire world. We also have the news that the FEI has canceled events in Europe due to the EHV-1 outbreak there. So we are very fortunate to be able to go ahead with our events in Qatar at this time,” said al-Mannai.
Appreciating and thanking Al Shaqab and Qatar for the efforts, Jan Tops, who is also the first team trainer for Qatari riders, said, “Riders love to come here (to Qatar) and compete. The Longines Global Champions Tour adds value to this glorious place Al Shaqab as it is a prestigious global event. We are always looking forward to having this event here as it serves as an inspiration to our young riders.
“The three-day event will also see Qatar’s Longines Hathab Tour 11 which is magnificently growing with the increase in young riders and horse owners. Al Shaqab is really unique in the world. It’s a really horse-friendly place which brings Asia and Europe together. It is also the logistics wise the best place to be,” he added.
On the start of the new season of LGCT, he said, “It’s winter in Europe now and hence to be able to have the event in Doha is excellent.”
On the event being hosted despite all the challenges, Tops said, “You need the skills and a lot of effort to make it like Al Shaqab and we have to work accordingly to the regulations. They have the inheritance with the Arabian horse and they want to be a country of excellence. They want to reach the maximum goal. They want to do the best and we are looking forward to continuing the relationship, looking to improve and looking to the future for good results.”
Sports Director of LGCT, Marco Danese thanked the hosts for making the opening leg of LGCT possible. “There wasn’t the possibility of competing and preparing. We have to thank Al Shaqab for the great organisation. Given the pandemic situation, we hope the season can continue with a lot of 5-star shows.”
On the competition in Doha, he said, “As we saw at CHI Al Shaqab, the quality of courses, and since the horses are fresh, the level of riders is very, very high. We can be assured of a superb Grand Prix coming Saturday.”
Al Shaqab has created a ‘bio bubble’ for the riders, organizational staff, and the media. “To keep the bubble secure there will be safety precautions in place," stressed al-Mannai. “With guidance and instruction from the Ministry of Public Health, Al Shaqab has worked with the LGCT team to ensure that all necessary Covid-19 precautionary measures are in place, and will be strictly enforced. In line with the MoPH Covid-19 health and safety guidelines, the venue capacity will be restricted to 10 percent.,” he said.
“Tickets can be purchased at the venue on event days but as a further precautionary measure, there will not be a Festival Area this year. Ultimately, the health and safety of participants, spectators, and all involved with the event remains Al Shaqab’s highest priority,” he added.
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