'The equestrian events are part of the Beijing Olympics. I don't think any wild card will be given to Hong Kong riders' Hong Kong might be 'hosting' the equestrian events at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, but they have been told unequivocally by Chinese officials that none of the six wild cards normally available to the host city will be given to local riders. 'The equestrian events are part of the Beijing Olympics and it is not Hong Kong's. I don't think any wild card will be given to Hong Kong riders,' said Yu Zaiqing, executive vice-president of the Beijing Organising Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games yesterday. There was a glimmer of hope that with Hong Kong stepping in to assist Beijing, which is facing a problem with their quarantine facilities, the wild cards usually given by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) would come to Hong Kong. But Yu shot down the idea immediately. 'No way, we are still the organisers and the wild cards will go to riders from China,' said Yu. The host city of an Olympics usually receives exemptions from international federations of all the 28 summer sports. For instance, at the Athens Olympics last year, the Greek Olympic Committee were able to field athletes from aquatic (swimming) to triathlon who did not have to qualify and gained automatic entry. A total of 200 athletes took part in the equestrian events in Athens: 50 in dressage, 75 in show-jumping and 75 in three-day eventing. In the past, four wilds cards are handed to the host city for show-jumping, and one each for dressage and eventing. When asked about his view on this issue, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge, said it was up to the FEI to decide on the allocation. 'I cannot tell you now what the decision will be. It will be up to the international federation,' said Rogge, after officiating at the renaming of Sports House to 'Olympic House' at So Kon Po yesterday. With the Hong Kong Jockey Club putting up $800 million to provide the facilities for the dressage, show-jumping and three-day eventing competitions, there was hope that there might be some local presence when the Olympics hits Sha Tin. The only route now available for Hong Kong athletes is through a qualifying process that has an Everest-size look about it. To add to this, a top local equestrian official said Hong Kong did not have the horses capable of taking a local rider to the Olympics. 'It does not surprise me that we will not be given any wild-card entries. I always think if there is a way that Hong Kong's riders can participate in the Olympics, it has to be going through the qualifiers,' said Jennifer Chang, Hong Kong's top show jumper. 'It is fair that the Chinese riders get them as they are the hosts of the equestrian events.' Stuart Mitchell, Jockey Club equestrian manager at Beas River, said: 'Hong Kong - and China - is at the bottom of the scale in Asia, let alone the world. To qualify for the Olympics will be a huge task for the riders, and none of the horses we have now is good enough to go to the Olympics.' According to Mitchell, the average cost of a good horse would be between US$1 million and US$2 million. He also said the riders would have to move to Europe to start preparing and competing against the best. 'We would have to start right now and even if there was this sort of money, it could only take you through the pre-qualifying stages for the Olympics. After that you will be up against some of the best riders in the world who will all be vying for a berth in the Olympics. 'Last time, the qualifying process was so tough that even some of the best riders in Britain had to qualify.' Prior to qualifying, riders must go through a pre-qualifying process where they vie for a 'certificate of capability', which grants them leeway to enter the final qualifiers. 'At the early stages, the riders have to jump hurdles set at 1.50 metres plus. In Hong Kong, our best riders are jumping 1.40 metres. This is partly because of the horses we have now,' explained Mitchell. Hong Kong have never taken part in the qualifying process for the equestrian events at the Olympics. However, the SAR is hoping to send a team to the China National Games in Nanjing in October. Already nine riders have qualified for this competition to be held in purpose-built facilities. But it is unlikely that all nine will take part as they will have to leave their horses behind in China once the competition is over. Stringent quarantine rules in Hong Kong prevent horses from being brought in from China. 'I don't think all of them will take part as they won't want to leave their horses behind,' said Mitchell.