Olympics: Team of DVMs ride out typhoon

Veterinarians alongside 280 equine athletes ready for start of Olympic games
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Aug 06, 2008
Hong Kong -- A team of veterinarians hunkered down alongside equestrians and 280 horses Wednesday morning to wait out a typhoon that blew into Hong Kong, site of the upcoming Olympic equestrian events.

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"The No. 8 has been hoisted, as they say in Hong Kong," Catherine W. Kohn, VMD, veterinary medicine professor at The Ohio State University, tells DVM Newsmagazine in an e-mail received at 9 p.m. Tuesday. Hong Kong is 12 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Savings Time, so it was already 9 a.m. Wednesday when she wrote.

A No. 8 means that Hong Kong will experience a direct hit by a tropical storm.

"We have a lot of wind and very heavy rain. By law, everyone must stay off the streets, and most public services, including transportation, are discontinued," Kohn says.

When severe storms strike, the city tries to keep everyone indoors until the worst is over, because of the danger of falling or flying debris.

"We arrived at the venue on the last bus from the hotels at about 7:15 this morning," Kohn writes. "The horses are all very comfortable in their stables."

Based on Kohn's description, the horse barns and other parts of the Olympic equestrian venue aren't a bad place to wait out a storm. "The barns are spacious, well ventilated, air-conditioned and quiet. Indeed, the facilities are second to none that I have seen," Kohn writes.

She has wide experience at major equine sporting events, including veterinary supervisory roles at past Olympic games and the Pan-Asian Games.

The Olympic venue at Sha Tin includes the racetrack and facilities normally operated by the world-renowned Hong Kong Jockey Club. "The entire venue is both functional and very attractive. Dr. Chris Riggs of the Hong Kong Jockey Club made all the veterinary arrangements," Kohn writes. "We have an excellent clinic, with state-of-the-art equipment. We can perform digital X-rays, ultrasonography, endoscopy and thermography."

Because of concerns about heat, humidity and air quality in Beijing, where most of the other Olympic contests will be held, the equestrian events were moved 1,200 miles south to Hong Kong, a port city, where air quality is somewhat better and the HKJC facilities can be used.

Kohn is a part of a 30-member international team of veterinary specialists from the United States, China, Australia and the United Kingdom that will oversee veterinary services during the equestrian games that begin this weekend and continue through Aug. 20. Some private veterinarians are also present, to care for individual horses.