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Tropical storm delays Olympic horses

Aug. 06, 2008, 1:05 a.m. (ET)

HONG KONG(AP) Two dozen horses due to arrive in Hong Kong by plane Wednesday for the Olympic equestrian competition have been delayed by a severe tropical storm.

Equestrian event spokesman Mark Pinkstone said he didn't expect the bad weather to affect the Olympic competition starting Saturday as wet conditions are common at equestrian contests and the Hong Kong venue's drainage systems are working properly.

Organizers said in a statement 14 of the 24 show jumping horses never left Amsterdam, where all horses must be shipped for a nine-day pre-competition quarantine, and the remaining 10 were on a flight that stopped in Dubai.

The horses stranded in Amsterdam are from China, the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates, while those in Dubai are from Australia and Saudi Arabia, the statement said.

``They'll come in as soon as the weather clears,'' Pinkstone said, adding, ``the horses in Hong Kong are resting peacefully.''

He said a final batch of horses were scheduled to arrive Thursday.

The wet weather also closed outdoor training facilities for the competition.

Severe tropical storm Kammuri was about 130 kilometers (81 miles) south-southwest of Hong Kong late Wednesday morning, bringing heavy rainfall and strong winds to the territory, shutting offices, courts and financial markets.

Kammuri is expect to move west-northwest and be well west of Hong Kong by Thursday morning, according to a forecast by the Hong Kong Observatory.

Pinkstone said Olympic organizers expect rainfall to continue for the next few days, but that it was no cause for concern.

``Under normal circumstances, if it's raining, anywhere, the equestrian sport continues,'' he said, adding that the drainage systems at the competition venues were tested by worse weather conditions during an exhibition competition last year.

Olympic organizers moved the equestrian event from Beijing to the former British colony of Hong Kong because of a rash of equine diseases and substandard quarantine procedures on the mainland. Hong Kong has much experience handling horses due to its prominent horse racing scene.