Polo at Maifeld

A player sprints through the rain at the Maifeld, outside the 1936 Olympic stadium

Thank you to Christoph Curvers and Annika of PACE Magazine for being my guides at my first polo tournament in Berlin. I’ll publish a few photos I took this week, along with some tidbits which are probably familiar to polo fans, but were fresh and fascinating to me, and may be to non-polo-ers who are passing through.

The championship took place on the Maifeld, which lies between the stadium and the bell tower at the Olympic complex and was originally intended for massed gymnastic displays of Deutsche Mådchen swinging medicine balls and Indian clubs, and for both the polo and dressage events. The Olympic riding park (built on the old Grunewald race course) was nearby, and there are still several stables in the area (Berlin is secretly a very horsey city, and Brandenburg, the state which surrounds it, even has its own pony and horse breed).

I’m told that the Nazis shut down polo in the 1930s, believing it to be an elitist, aristocratic pursuit, and set German polo back several decades (the sport wasn’t revived in this country till 1962). The Olympic team were allowed to go on practising, but their ponies were taken away and replaced with “superior” German horses that were so tall that they had to find extra long mallets. They did really badly, and of course, that was it for polo in the Third Reich. Sweet then, despite the rain, to see polo played once more on the Maifeld. There were even a few German players on the pitch!

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