All British riders will be required to stay in the athletes’ village at Rio 2016 in an agreement designed to ensure their safety.

In the past, some have chosen to stay in hotels or apartments near to the Olympic site.

But for travel, security and health reasons, the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) has decided all members of Team GBR will stay in the Olympic village in Bara.

The distance between Bara and the equestrian venue of Deodoro — a military base — is 25km.

Dan Hughes, the BEF’s equestrian performance director, explained the challenges facing Team GBR in Rio, at the National Equine Forum (NEF) on 3 March.

With the dressage, showjumping and eventing teams all in Rio at the same time, there will be 120 athletes, horses and support staff to cater for.

“The first major challenge we have is that after such a phenomenal Games in London, the expectations are very, very high,” said Mr Hughes.

“While our expectations are high, it has to be tempered with what Rio and Brazil are like.

“I think [Deodoro] is going to be one of the most secure areas of the Olympics.

“In terms of equine health, I am reassured that absolutely everything that can be done is being done, to make sure our horses are as well protected as they can be.”

Will Rio be ready for the Games?

Worries over whether the Olympic equestrian venue will be ready in time were voiced earlier this year.

Rio’s city government terminated an agreement to build the equestrian venue due to reported “non-compliance with contractual clauses”.

However, a new contractor was found and FEI president Ingmar De Vos told H&H last month he is “confident” ahead of the Games.

A road tunnel linking the athletes’ village to the equestrian venue is being built through the Engenho Velho mountain, with a completion date a month ahead of the Games.

“If it is not finished, it will throw up a whole host of problems,” said Mr Hughes.

“It will go to the wire, but I have every confidence it will be done.”

He added there is a contingency plan in place if it is not finished.

“There are other ways of getting up to that part of Rio, but it will extend travel times by at least 50%,” he said.

“There are no hotels up there — what we have found is two apartments, which would normally be used by the media.

“We have managed to find enough accommodation for at least our athletes to stay overnight within five minutes of the venue.”

Zika concerns

The World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed on 8 March that “substantial” new research had strengthened knowledge of the association between Zika infection and foetal malformations and neurological problems.

“In addition, the geographical distribution of the disease is wider. The risk group is broader. And the modes of transmission now include sexual intercourse as well as mosquito bites,” read a statement from WHO’s Dr Margaret Chan.

Mr De Vos told H&H in February that the International Olympic Organising Committee (IOC) had assured them everything possible was being done to prevent the virus spreading.

“At the Deodoro site we do have some standing water, which is more of a problem with mosquitoes, but August is Brazil’s winter, so the mosquito population should be reduced,” he added.

Mr Hughes said the BEF is monitoring the situation “along with everybody else”.

“A lot of what is happening in South America in rural areas is being piled on Rio,” he said.

He added that he is “not playing down” the seriousness of the situation, but will make sure Team GBR is “as well protected as possible”.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 31 March 2016