Sotogrande is synonymous with sun and sand, discretion and privacy, family and friends, enjoying and resting, haute cuisine and rich snacks, designer shops and art galleries, sailing and walking through its Marina, but, above all, everything, from having known how to hit a winning shot in his commitment to polo. And it is that if this exclusive urbanization of Cádiz is known worldwide for something, it is for the International Polo Tournament, which will celebrate its 52nd edition from July 24 to August 26 and which is the sum of all the above.
So much so that, as it is the third most important polo championship in the world and the first in Continental Europe, it is capable of bringing together an elite during the summer that makes Sotogrande an essential destination. "We have a unique place, an incomparable natural space and a perfect climate; facilities in which we have been investing a lot of effort and which can be classified as the best for practicing this sport, and a human team that spares no effort in ensuring that everything ready to develop a competition of this level", explains Paola Zóbel, granddaughter of Íñigo Zóbel, promoter of what we know today as Ayala Polo Club, the venue where the tournament is held -Sotogrande was founded in 1964 by the American businessman Joseph McMicking, president of Ayala Corporation. That same year, his nephew and Paola's great-grandfather, Enrique Zóbel, built what would be the first course in Sotogrande, known as La Playa and located in front of what is now the Real Club de Golf; in 1967 the polo show began in the urbanization, with a first four-team tournament; and, in 1971, the renowned Sotogrande Gold Cup was played for the first time. Later, it would be his grandfather, Íñigo Zóbel, who would launch the Ayala Polo Club brand, an enclosure that today has 65 hectares of green areas and another 35 hectares for sports practice.
The current person in charge of this family legacy assures that this year's edition, the third that the family organizes directly, will be the best in history and the challenge does not seem easy to achieve if we look at the figures that this sport accumulates. It is estimated that polo has an impact of more than 35 million euros in the three summer months, but Ayala Polo Club is much more than a tournament: on its fields, the season begins on May 18 with the Cup of Welcome and will conclude in September. And, although these championships do not have the same impact as the international tournament, they serve as a warm-up for players -the best in the world always attend, this year up to twenty nationalities are expected- and professionals from other industries, mainly services, who come to Sotogrande to promote this sport. "Polo occupies a more important place in sport every day. In fact, Spain was crowned world champion in 2022 in the tournament held in the United States. It is a sport with enormous projection in our country, with increasing acceptance among the general public, something that we are perceiving when we see a greater interest on the part of the sponsors that accompany us -Terralpa is a sponsor of the Silver Cup, a competition that is part of the International Tournament, which has the support of Mahou San Miguel, Ramón Bilbao or Diageo-.
It is this economic facet that Zóbel highlights. "It is a great driving force for the economy for the entire area, as well as the creation of direct and indirect jobs. The organization of this tournament generates a great economic movement that involves various sectors and there are many teams from different countries "To those who have to provide for many different needs. This economic volume remains in the area and each year the preparation and arrival of the Sotogrande International Polo Tournament are expected as a fundamental economic injection." Although this does not mean that it is intended only for an elite. "It's not a sport for the rich at all," says Zóbel, who has been educated in the culture of effort. "The history of my ancestors is littered with people who have achieved great business achievements. I also want to prove to myself that I can do things, have initiatives and experience challenges and achievements without having to be forced by my parents. I am proud of to be able to continue and continue something that my family started many years ago. It would be sad if I didn't do it and left myself to a comfortable life doing nothing, it's something boring that I hate. We are here to do things", concludes Zóbel.