Today I got as close as I’m likely to get to watching the Olympic cross-country live (like most people, I failed in the ticket ballot). Today’s two-star track for the invitational test event was interesting, entertaining (though not very problematic), attractive — and hot.
Packs of local school children brought a new perspective to the event. No respectful hush for them as horses approached the water — they squealed encouragement as the riders cantered in, creating a real buzz (well, until they got bored).
Aside from them, the mostly invited crowds boasted an extraordinary density of ‘equestrian personnel’. Progress round the course was therefore interrupted by endless encounters with fellow media, event organisers, riders, owners, equestrian PR people, equestrian sponsors and more.
Without question Greenwich 2012 will clearly offer challenging terrain (few people were prepared for just how undulating it is), wonderful going, a splendid main arena and great television.
The bigger challenge will be giving ticket holders a similarly first-class experience. The park is dense with trees. Will there be scope over next year’s course (roughly twice the length of this one) to see more than one fence at a time? And the typical ‘pitch up in your 4×4 and do a spot of shopping’ horse trial visitor will need re-educating about what to expect.
It was interesting to gauge the opinions of people on the course and venue (see next Thursday’s H&H).
Where’s the legacy?
But if one thing riles me viewing the impressive ‘pop-up horse trial’ that’s been built at Greenwich, it’s the lack of legacy.
Curiously, I’ve never before been bothered by the legacy issue. I’ve always felt that if a largely portable course keeps costs down and thus helps retain equestrianism in the Olympics, that’s fine with me.
But the initial projected budget of £6million has been shot to smithereens. The cost now is believed to be nearer £40million. For that sort of sum, it would have been great to have world-class facilities after the Games, besides the London-focused equestrian projects being created under the ‘Hoof’ programme.
Get more reaction and analysis of Greenwich Park at the London 2012 equestrian venue in next week’s H&H magazine