Cross-country course designer Mike Etherington-Smith has hit out at FEI “interference” after being forced to comply with a request from FEI president Princess Haya to make a last-minute fence change to the Olympic course.
Neither officials nor team managers had asked for any alterations to the course, but he claims the president was asked to make the request by another person.
Admitting to being “furious”, he said: “It’s not for her to intervene, although I know she was put up to it. This sort of thing just undermines officials.”
During a drive with FEI committee members around the course on the afternoon before cross-country, the Princess requested decorative boulders be removed from under the Stone Garden at Fence 18 in case a horse was injured.
Mike’s wife, Sue, had to rush off to a local nursery and conjure up 14 fir trees instead.
Mike, who will design the cross-country at the 2010 World Games, said that the whole issue, which flew across websites all over the world, had been over-dramatised.
“We need to move forward from this,” he said. “Through British Eventing [where he is director of sport], I will, of course, continue to make our research on cross-country safety available to the FEI and to help in any way I can.”
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