Prince William invited to Manipur polo tourney

IMPHAL: Prince William, the second in line to the throne of England, has been invited to attend the 8th 'Manipur Polo International' next year.

Organized by the Manipur Horse Riding and Polo Association (MHRPA), the mega event is being held to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first modern polo exhibition match between a Manipuri polo team and a British team in Kolkata in March 1864.

A formal invitation has been recently sent to Prince William requesting him to attend next year's mega event here, MHRPA president S Budhachandra Singh told TOI on Thursday.

"We will also invite at least six foreign teams to take part in the event for which a decision will be taken by the association soon," Budhachandra, who is a retired IAS officer, said.

He said the state government is likely to take necessary steps to ensure that the historic Mapal Kangjeibung is declared a world heritage site.

Polo, which is regarded as symbol of peaceful co-existence between man and animal, is said to have originated in Manipur. According to the 1991 Guinness Book of World Records, the origins of polo can be traced back to 3100 BC when people in Manipur state played the sport as Sagol Kangjei (horse stick).

The 7th edition of 'Manipur Polo International' concluded at Mapal Kangjebung - regarded as the oldest polo ground in the world - on Thursday. The final match was played between a team from the US and one from Manipur. Five teams - two from India and one each from the US, Germany and Thailand - took part in the tournament this year. The tournament was held as part of the ongoing Sangai festival, the biggest state-sponsored tourism festival in Manipur.

Meanwhile, chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh said sufficient budget would be allocated for preserving the rare Manipuri ponies, known as 'original polo pony'. The MHRPA is currently manning a pony breeding farm at Lamphelpat here with the primary aim to ensure that the animal does not become extinct.

During a visit of the proposed Pony Sanctuary Park at Ibudhou Marjing Polo Complex at Heingang area in Imphal East on Wednesday, the CM said that the pony sanctuary development work has began after the state government gave its nod.

Currently, the park development work is on in a 23.5 acre area. Efforts are on to acquire another 500 acres, including the adjoining area in the foothills, for the proposed pony sanctuary, the chief minister said, adding that development of a race course to attract tourists is also one of the project's components.

Singh pointed out Manipur Polo International tournament has been made a regular feature of the Manipur Sangai Festival as part of the state government's vision to protect and increase the pony population from the present number of about 700.


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