A spectacular day and mild weather with high clouds paved the way for the third edition of Polo del Sorriso at the Acquedotto Romano Polo Club just a handful of miles from Rome. Over six hundred people attended the event on September 27th and thanks to their presence and generosity of those present, over € 33,000 was raised for Smile House Milano (part of Operation Smile).
Five teams, including a team from Sweden, entered the tournament which was also played at the Roma Polo Club. The five day event began with a beautiful cocktail party at the rooftop of the Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Hotels and Resorts which overlooks Rome from Monte Mario hill. The weather that evening was quite inclement (thundershowers and wind): the initial plans to present the players and the horses at the poolside had to be quickly changed and Waldorf staff, headed by Britta Krug and Barbara Manto did a spectacular job of adapting to the circumstances. The only observation was that the hotel elevators could not transport the Polo ponies to the ninth floor terrace. The manager of the hotel (Mr. Alessandro Cabella chuckled and said that next year they would find a solution).
The tournament began in earnest the following days with the blue team captained by Francesco Scardaccione cleaning up on their competitors in their division. The other bracket was won by the team white captained by Max Elser who beat his brother’s team.
On the day of the final, Max Elser’s team managed to beat Scardaccione’s team by a goal in the last minute of play, when the scored was tied at 6 all. Scardaccione’s team was always ahead during the match and the last minute goal was the best way to finish the match. A very difficult nearside under the neck goal by rising star Peter Elser was voted best goal of the tournament.
Besides the Polo match, the spectators had the opportunity to see paratroopers jump out of the sky with the Italian flag and the flag of Operation Smile. The Lancieri di Montebello put on a splendid show of their famous “Carosello” followed by the “Carica” with forty horses. Both the horses and the soldiers were in high uniform. The Lancieri di Montebello is Italy’s oldest cavalry and executed it’s last charge against the Soviet tanks during World War II.
A dozen antique and classic cars made their way on the Polo field as well. If this was not enough, a half dozen helicopters and planes flew over after the prize giving ceremony and some lucky spectators even had the chance to get bird’s eye view of the Roman countryside by getting rides on planes and helicpters!
After the match, an auction was held for the items that were generously gifted by Alitalia, AS Roma, SS Lazio, The Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Hotel and Resorts and Rome Luxury Suites. Thousands of Euros were raised in a show of generosity.
There was a rink for children to try ponies and horses and there was even an exhibition of western riding.
Children also had the opportunity to do treasure hunts, see magician’s tricks and play other team games.
Great fun was had by all and there was united agreement that the third edition of Polo del Sorriso (Polo for Smiles) was the best one yet.
Operation Smile President Santo Versace (of the eponymous brand) prized princess Lucia Odescalchi for the most beautiful hat.