The end of the Olympics doesn’t mean you have to stop enjoying international sports. Next month, North Avenue Beach will house Chicago’s own polo arena for the Qatar Airways Chicago Beach Polo Cup. The three-day tournament will feature retail pop-up shops by Qatar Airways and United States Polo Association, restaurants, a wine tent, champagne and more. Whether you’re a die-hard polo enthusiast or completely new to the sport, here are five reasons why Chicago’s tournament is an event you won’t want to miss.
1. See the sport that’s “older than recorded history” right here in Chicago, one of the eight locations in the world where beach polo tournaments take place.
While polo finds its origins in Central Asia between 600 B.C. and 100 A.D., modern polo began in India in the mid-1850s. From there, the sport spread to countries such as England, Ireland and Argentina. In 1876, the sport finally came to the United States after James Gordon Bennett, the New York Herald’s publisher, brought it to New York after visiting England. New York’s club, the Westchester Polo Club, became the first one of its kind in the United States. This number began to grow, and by 1900, 23 clubs had been founded. Today, more than 275 member clubs in the United States boast more than 4,500 players. And now, thanks to the Chicago Beach Polo Cup, you have the opportunity to see one of the world’s oldest sports right in the heart of Chicago.
2. Chicago’s roots in polo date back to the 1950s.
In 1954, Chicago hosted the U.S. Open Polo Championship at the Oakbrook Polo Club. The tournament was played here for the next 25 years. Even the U. S. Polo Association eventually relocated its headquarters from New York to Illinois. The Oak Brook Polo Club attracted royalty and celebrities alike, including Prince Charles, Audrey Hepburn, Lord Patrick Beresford and more. Celebrities will also be in attendance at the Chicago Beach Polo Cup — but you’ll have to attend the event to find out which ones. Even Prince Harry has been known to make an appearance at these kinds of events.
3. At North Avenue Beach, you will be extremely close to the action.
While a normal polo field is roughly the size of nine football fields, the custom-built North Avenue Beach arena will be much smaller, about 300 x 130 feet. This will allow visitors to be up close and personal with the horses and players. The close proximity of the field will be a polo experience unlike any other.
4. See teams with players from all over the world — and maybe even meet them!
Teams set to participate include Wales (The Royal Team), Buenos Aires, Canada, the United States, Chicago and Washington. The tournament will be broadcast to more than 20 countries. You’ll even have a chance to meet some of the players at the meet-and-greet area.
5. Proceeds from the event will benefit Sentebale, Princes Harry and Seeiso’s charity.
In 2006, Prince Harry of the British Royal Family and Prince Seeiso of the Lesotho Royal Family collaborated to create Sentebale, a charity that works with local grassroots organizations to help children in Lesotho. Sentebale, which means “forget-me-not” in Lesotho’s language Sesotho, makes a difference in the lives of children who are victims of poverty and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The organization provides basic needs, psychosocial support and training for children to live healthy and full lives. To learn more and get involved in Sentebale, visit sentable.org.
A few more fun facts to know before the tournament:
- Lefties are banned from the game due to safety reasons.
- The horse’s mane is trimmed, and the tail is tied to avoid becoming tangled with the reins or mallet.
- There are six periods in a game, and each period lasts seven minutes.
Learn more about polo here.
Tickets for the tournament start at $65. The event takes place from Friday, Sept. 9 to Sunday, Sept. 11 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit chicagobeachpolocup.com.
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