The Sport of Kings: Polo

Polo is back, or at least that is Nacho Figueras's dream, as he leads the charge to bring the sport of kings back to the playing fields of America.

(CBS News) In a small horse stable in west Philadelphia, city kids are learning the sport of kings: polo, usually the domain of the modern-day Gatsby set. It's all part of polo's growing popularity in the United States, a charge led by star player Nacho Figueras. Nacho tells Lara Logan there is nothing genteel about this sport, and he has an impressive list of injuries to prove his point. 60 Minutes reports on one of the most dangerous, expensive, and beautiful sports in the world - "The Sport of Kings."


The following script is from "The Sport of Kings" which originally aired on April 8, 2012. Lara Logan is the correspondent. Max McClellan, producer.

Polo is called the sport of kings and for centuries its drawn royalty to its ranks. In the minds of many, the game has always belonged to the rich, the famous, and the privileged few. But there's more to the sport than the glamorous world that surrounds it.

It began as a war game more than 2,000 years ago and is one of the oldest team sports in history. Most of us in America today know very little about it, but there was a time in this country -- in the 1920s and 30s -- when polo could draw a crowd of 30,000 spectators and the U.S. was considered the best in the world.

Today, there are polo clubs all over the country and this weekend the best international players are gathered at the U.S. Open Polo Championship in Florida, one of the most prestigious tournaments in the sport.

Tonight, we're going to introduce you to one of the game's stars who has made it his mission to try to reignite America's passion for the game.

It's fast, it's rough, and it's considered to be one of the most dangerous sports in the world.

Lara Logan: Is it a fight on the field? Are you going to war?

Nacho: It's war, yes. You're not trying to hurt anybody. But yes, you're trying to score more goals and to go faster and hit someone harder, and do whatever it takes to win that game.

35-year-old Argentine Ignacio Figueras -- known simply as Nacho -- is the most famous professional polo player today. You may recognize him as the face of Ralph Lauren, that sultry look, an international symbol for the Polo brand. He's also the unrivaled ambassador for the sport.

Eighteen thousand people showed up at this charity match he hosted on Governors Island in New York City where some of the VIP tables went for $50,000.

Nacho is at ease among the glitz and glamour of the polo scene, the star attraction in that Great Gatsby world of extravagant hats, seersucker suits and elegant spectators sipping champagne. But where we saw his real passion was on the field.

Nacho: Polo it goes beyond where you are or beyond what people are wearing, beyond the hats, beyond the high heels, beyond all of those things. People think of polo and they think of those things first. All these things are happening around it, but what about what's happening inside.

Inside it takes blood, sweat and hard work to play polo at Nacho's level. These pictures were filmed at a thousand frames per second on a high-speed camera that we used to capture Nacho in action and the power and intensity of the game.

Many people describe polo as hockey on horseback. Nacho told us it's more like playing golf in an earthquake.

60 Minutes App

New Look. New Season. The 60 Minutes app for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch!

More from 60 Minutes