POLO COMES TO THE O2 AS PONIES AND PLAYERS LINE UP TO IMPRESS

 
Elizabeth Fournier
FOR the first time ever, polo ponies took to the floor at the O2 arena last night at the inaugural Gaucho International Polo event.

Teams from England, South Africa, Argentina and Scotland (flying the flag for City A.M.) met in North Greenwich last night to bring a touch of the country to urban London, in the world’s first indoor polo test match.

For those used to taking in a few chukkers of traditional field polo at Ham or Ascot, arena polo is a whole different ball game. The pitch size is reduced, and instead of the regulation four players per team there are just three. The result makes for a fast-paced and frenetic game where spectators are never too far from the action – think 20/20 cricket on horseback.

Yesterday’s action kicked off with an Oxbridge varsity derby, followed by the first international clash, with City A.M.-sponsored Scotland triumphing 15-11 against South Africa in the fight for the coveted Ambassador’s Cup.

The evening culminated in a grudge match between traditional adversaries England and Argentina. With Argentina laying claim to eight of the world’s current top ten polo players, the English did spectacularly well, winning 17-16 against Argentina – the team that has been the undisputed world champion since 1949.

Argentinean Nacho Figueras (below) was definitely the man to watch out for during that match. As well as being a world-class polo player, Figueras is also a brand ambassador for Ralph Lauren, and brought a sense of style to the game that has long been lacking among English sportsman. In-between matches spectators were treated to a “celebrity” match for charity, plus live music, food, drink and retail stores spread throughout the arena.

There was even a ‘have-a-go polo’ stand for those inspired by the action – though The Capitalist can’t help but pity the poor ponies being squired around the pitch by anyone who’d been hitting the corporate hospitality tent.

SCALING THE ICE

As the man responsible for one of the UK’s favourite frozen food retailers, Iceland boss Malcolm Walker (right) should be used to cold temperatures. And his sub-zero experience will definitely come in handy when he’s scaling the North Col (or pass) of Mount Everest next month in aid of Alzheimer’s Research UK.

In an expedition led by UK explorer David Hempleman-Adams, the team will follow the path trodden by George Mallory and Andrew Irvine over 80 years ago, with Walker taking a two-month leave of absence from his role to pursue the 23,000ft North Col peak, just 6,000ft from the mountain’s summit.

Not only is the trek sponsored by Iceland, but all the food for the expedition is also coming from one of the supermarket’s suppliers, to keep the climbers going during their gruelling march to the top. Though perhaps not quite up to the standards of food enjoyed by Sir Edmund Hillary, who feasted on Fortnum & Mason’s finest during his climb, vacuum-packed delicacies for Walker’s trip will include Boeuf Bourguignon, Irish Stew and Tuscan chicken – for a taste of home away from home among the glaciers.

AN ANTIQUE MEAL

If you’ve ever worried about dropping a friend’s favourite crystal wine glass or smashing your mother’s wedding china, next month’s Dining off Antiques dinner might just be your worst nightmare.

But for those more steady of hand, then eating off a £75,000 silver service alongside superstar chef Michel Roux might be just the ticket to food heaven. On 30 March, Roux’s new venture at The Landau will be the scene of a very exclusive dinner, with just 20 guest places available to dine with the Le Gavroche chef and his co-host – Simon Phillips of Mayfair’s Ronald Phillips antiques.

But while the celebrity names might be enough to tempt some, at Dining off Antiques the real star of the show will be the crockery.

Seated around a Regency Rosewood Brass-inlaid table, guests will dine amongst mahogany side cabinets commissioned for Windsor Castle, and sup their wine from antique glassware from dealer Andrew Lineham.

With a four-course menu from The Langham’s archives, and matched to one of the Landau’s vintage, the dinner will raise money for London charity The Dispossessed Fund – with all antiques available to buy on the night.

With the furniture and dining set on show valued at a total of £3m, those lucky enough to score a seat at Roux’s table will be guaranteed an evening of fabulous food, delicious wines – and definitely no sudden movements.