Nothing but the best for Rio’s four-legged guests

No expense has been spared in providing luxury accommodation for some athletes competing in Rio – one hotel would illicit rave reviews if only its guests could write.

The five-star residence in question is at the Olympic equestrian centre where horses have been arriving from around the world in customised pallets on charter flights.

From the airport the special cargo, whose value runs into millions of dollars, are transported to their boutique Rio resort.

Along with their luggage.

No measly 23 kilo limit applicable here, forklift trucks are required to ferry the tack and equipment weighing up to 300kg from reception to room.

“Watch out,” warned no-nonsense stable spokesperson Maria Hernek as the latest guest’s bags trundle past.

As befits any quality hotel, residents’ security is paramount.

The horses have no need to fear, the stable is situated at the heart of the Deodoro military camp.

Sunglassed soldiers are everywhere in the fortressed town – lining the roads, taking shade under trees from the blazing winter rays, on rooftops, keeping a watchful eye from terraces, their beret-ed heads popping out of tanks.

There’s a soldier it seems for every mosquito.

Crime in this quarter of a city notorious for its high murder rate must be refreshingly low.

“Security is tight, just think of the value of animals, we need to know who is coming in and out,” explained Hernek.

As a quarantined area there are strict procedures to adhere to on entering the complex, with all visitors made to walk over a disinfectant mat. Hands must be washed going in and out.

“As its quarantined visitors are forbidden to touch horses on pain of expulsion,” Hernek said fiercely.

Up to Thursday night, 174 of the 270-odd guests had arrived safe and sound, able to enjoy their custom-made boxes that would give many a student hostel a run for their money.

The boxes are spacious, 5 metres by 3.5, some fitted with cooling systems to keep the occupants fresh.

“We keep all the countries and disciplines together,” Hernek said.

Tricolors half-heartedly fluttering in the afternoon breeze hung outside the French boxes. Opposite were the Brazilian team’s horses, coached by New Zealand riding legend Mark Todd.

Outside Ireland’s boxes a furry mascot takes pride of place.

Up at the top right corner of the barns is the German quarter housing London 2012 double gold medallist Michael Jung’s celebrated horse Sam.

“He’s a good guest, he eats and sleeps well,” Hernek smiled.

Jung had earlier reported: “Sam is in good form. He came in tip-top shape off the plane.”

The first horse to ring the hotel’s reception bell last Saturday was Ringwood Sky Boy from New Zealand.

Once through airport checks he and his fellow four-legged passengers stepped into four 18.5m-long trailers – brought in especially from Germany – attached to lorries, which whisked them under federal highway police escort to Deodoro.

Saturday’s customised freight-plane arrival was the first of nine inbound flights from Stansted in England, Liege in Belgium and Miami in Florida.

Top quality nosh

As befits any guest on a busman’s break Ringwood Sky Boy, Sam, and the others expect nothing but top quality nosh during their stay.

Teams can bring their own feed, but only under strict supervision, with months of controls required before the list of up to 2,500 products is approved by the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture.

Horses require up to 15 kilos of grass or hay a day, totalling around 30 tonnes over the duration of the Games.

Teams have ordered 50,000kg of high performance Timothy grass hay from the United States, as well as 10,000kg of a variety of Bermudagrass hay and 3,000 kg of alfalfa hay sourced from growers within Brazil.

Bedding comes in the form of pine shavings, all 175 tonnes of it.

“Since a few of the equine athletes have allergies to wood shavings, a small amount of alternative bedding in the form of shredded paper, sourced from a supplier near Sao Paulo, will also be provided,” said Eileen Phethean, chief operating Officer at official Olympic food and bedding suppliers Kentucky Equine Research.

“Other things on the menu include locally-sourced oats, pelleted and textured feeds produced and of course, some treats.”

The treats she is referring to are carrots, lots of them.

“We expect to serve up close to 4,000kg of carrots and another 500kg of apples (sourced via the venue caterers) to these well-loved athletes.”

All in all then Deodoro is not a bad place to rest one’s mane then.

And unlike from the two-legged athletes down the road in the Olympic village there have been no complaints – written or otherwise – from the equine guests – not even over the lack of hot water.

Source: AFP

Author: zeina

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