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Let the Games Begin
22 March 2010, 14h30 IST (GMT+5.5)

New Delhi Skyline
New Delhi Skyline
Click image for my tweets from the field

There is something deeply unsettling about departing from a city at 8pm, flying about in steerage for an eternity, and finally landing, only to discover that it is still 8pm in the city of my arrival. It seems to provide unwanted evidence that all our travails are life’s private jokes against us and us alone.

I arrived in New Delhi for the FEI International Tent Pegging Championships after fifteen hours of flying. Although I have been to the city before, I suspect that New Delhi will never cease to be a full sensory assault: a crush of sight, sound, scent, tactility, where even the air has a distinct taste.

I was met at the airport by Nafees Anwar, a cheerful minder despatched by the championships’ organising committee to keep me out of trouble, a truly futile errand. While we awaited the arrival of some of the other teams, be briefed me on how the coming days will unfold.

These are clearly going to be the largest tent pegging championships of all time: fifteen countries will take the field: Australia; Egypt; India; Iraq; Israel; Sudan; Ukraine; Romania; Mongolia; Oman; Pakistan; South Africa; Yemen; the United Kingdom; and of course Canada.

The list of nations reflects the countries where tent pegging is most popular, perhaps because like the sport itself, their societies are intimately bound-up with the primordial domestication of the horse and the rise of chivalry and cavalry warfare.

The earliest archaeological evidence of equine domestication is from the Ukraine. The oldest representation of working horses is from Iraq. Tent pegging was born in India and Pakistan during the Bronze Age. Egypt emerged as a great power as the Pharaohs yoked horses to war chariots. Oman and Yemen share in the genesis of the Arabian horse and long-distance cavalry campaigns. Romania bears its name from its colonisation by the Roman cavalry and legions. Mongolia’s Genghis Khan created the last global empire to be conquered from the saddle. The state of South Africa was born amidst cavalry combat between the British and the Boers. The Australians led the last traditional cavalry campaign at Beersheba. To this day, the horse-mounted Janjaweed continue to bring-down death upon villages throughout Sudan.

Not for the first time, Canada is something of the odd duck of the tent pegging championships. The other arriving athletes keep asking me, "So where's your support team?" I do not think they entirely believe me when I tell them that I am my support team.

The schedule is a frenzied one, and I suspect that I will have to confine myself to brief mobile postings of Twitter tweets, Facebook status updates, and the occasional Flickr photo upload, with my blog articles delayed to stolen moments later in the week. I invite anyone who is pathologically idle and wishes to keep up with the progress of the championships to subscribe to my social media feeds or check my Twitter scroll at the top of my blog page.

I will take to the field tomorrow, and will do my best to ride fast, strike true, and represent Canada with honour.


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