Princess finds course tough going

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 August, 2007, 12:00am

It took a helping hand from IOC president Jacques Rogge - looking every part the hero in his Terminator-style wrap-around shades - to save Princess Haya bint Al-Hussein from a tumble into the sodden turf at Beas River yesterday.

A moment later, the princess seemed destined for a dip in an open drain, too, until a security guard changed her direction just before she was due to take a plunge.

The dignitaries were being shown around the cross-country course when the Hong Kong media pack pounced, and mayhem ensued.

Security personal joined hands and circled the touring party - which also included Hong Kong's Olympic supremo Timothy Fok Tsun-ting and Equestrian Company chairman Lam Woon-kwong - and for a while the whole procession seemed to take on an unwieldy life of its own, drifting left and right and towards no place in particular

As the group started to head down one embankment - to get closer to the action on the course - Princess Haya slipped, only to find a saviour in Rogge, who caught her arm and steadied her.

He then made a brave call for order - 'We'll have a one minute photo session - it's becoming a mess'' - but it was all in vain. The pack pounced again as soon as the session was over, forcing the party against the ropes separating the viewing areas and the course.

'Please stay this side,' pleaded the princess, here in her role as president of the Federation Equestre Internationale, as a competitor thundered past. Once the path was clear, security ushered her towards what they thought was safety, but were headed for a drain.

Luckily, one guard rushing in from the perimeter checked her stride and she disappeared through the security gates and out of harm's way.

Returning later to briefly face the press, Princess Haya was not giving too much away.

'I think we have many suggestions [about the course] that we will go into later and in the briefings in the next few days,'' she said. 'We are looking forward to making a summary at the end of the week.'

Lam, meanwhile, later admitted that security measures needed to be looked at.

John Ridley, the Jockey Club's head of racing operations, was part of the touring party and said the princess was impressed by the course - but he wouldn't be drawn on what she had to say about the commotion. Instead, Ridley preferred to turn attention towards the action on the course, particularly among HK riders.

'They've done the local sport proud,'' said Ridley 'Some people today, after they'd finished, you'd think they'd won the Mark Six.'