Chevy Beh represent HK National Team to play in the 1st Asia Snow Polo held in Tianjin, China featured on Shanghai Daily

ASIA’S first ever snow polo tournament went into its second day yesterday at China’s newest and largest polo club in Tianjin, with six top global teams promoting the luxury sport to the nation’s new and growing ranks of wealthy.

Though an early form of polo was once popular with upper classes during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), the sport of kings died out almost entirely until a recent surge of interest in foreign sports seen as being high class.

The first generations of new wealthy spawned by China’s economic reforms are likely to view golf, red wine and Ferrari as symbols of prestige, but many of the newer generation are looking for something more.

“We have so many international players from all over the world coming together in this area,” said Chevy Beh, a 23-year-old player on the Hong Kong team. “I think that is a good way to promote polo in China.”

The “Snow Polo Challenge,” which kicked off on Tuesday, is being held on a field covered with artificial snow at the Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club in Tianjin.

Teams from England, Argentina, France, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong galloped through the powdery snow, watched by business executives, government officials and invited media.

With no homegrown team, the Chinese mainland is represented by the polo team from Hong Kong, where the game is played avidly.

“I don’t think it’s that common yet,” said Qiu Yuanyuan, a business development officer from HSBC bank.

“There may be a lot of high-level people who have made a lot of money very quickly, but that doesn’t mean they have reached a culture level where they can appreciate this.”

Some recent attempts at launching polo clubs in China have been criticized for lacking expertise, with observers suggesting they were just window-dressing for high-end property developments.

Singaporean Rowland K. Wong, president of Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club, was happy for the club to add value to the unfinished real estate that looms over it.

He and his company said they have invested 10 billion yuan (US$1.5 billion) in the development, which also includes high-rise apartment buildings and villas.