Larks in the park as polo delivers an apt mix of silliness and sophistication

The attendees at the city’s inaugural Copenhagen Polo Open might not have grasped all the rules, but they had a great time trying

If you live in the Østerbro area and wondered why cries of “Hyttelig – Hy!” and “The Big Boy hoofs it in!” were echoing through the streets last weekend, you weren’t alone. The explanation was a simple one: the inaugural Copenhagen Polo Open had brought the ‘Sport of Kings’ to Denmark for the very first time. 


Despite Denmark’s long equestrian heritage, acres of flat land and the highest per capita horse ownership in Europe, the Danish Polo Association (DPA) was only set up late last year, under the umbrella of Denmark’s oldest riding association, Sportsrideklubbe.


The DPA organised the event, not only to introduce the game to Denmark, but to show how the game can be enjoyed by all. By moving the game from rural obscurity to the centre of the city, the event was an attempt to bring the game to the masses. Polo training dummies allowed kids and inebriated adults alike to give the game a go, without the danger of real thundering hooves. 


However, the call to saddle seemingly made little impression on the Danes, as it felt rather sparsely attended, although it still attracted 4,500 spectators over the two days.


Sponsors Maserati, Veuve Clicquot, Rossini Caviar and various other luxury brands enticed VIP guests such as Prince Joachim and Princess Marie, as well as a host of other Danish celebrities, while a band, beer and Sebastian Baker – the world-famous polo commentator – kept us plebs entertained. 


Members of the crowd were invited to participate in a dash across the field to grab the caviar waiting on a princess’s arm and were treated to a game of segway polo. Even during the game, it was hard not to be amused by the commentator lamenting the inevitable as a player walked over the ball, or kicked it to the side with his hoof – issues that I doubt would be excusable in the Beautiful Game. It was the exact blend of silliness and sophistication that probably fulfilled many onlookers’ ‘Pretty Woman’ preconception – although there wasn’t any divot stomping between chukkers, or a prostitute yelling inanely.  


The Copenhagen team sponsored by Maserati triumphed in the end, but the star of the show was Santiago Shananhan, an Argentine player who won ‘Most Valued Player’. His agility and power wowed even the most ignorant spectators, while the commentator was unable to restrain his cries of “Santiago! Belo! Belo!” whenever he took possession of the ball. 


Attendees generally concurred that while they didn’t necessarily understand what was going on – perhaps this was a fear that deterred others from coming – they loved it. It was a wonderful and unexpected way to spend an afternoon in Copenhagen; let’s hope that the disappointing turnout doesn’t discourage them from trying again.