‘The atmosphere is AMAZING’. That’s what I’ve heard repeatedly over the past week while I’ve been writing about Greenwich, watching it on television and following people’s reactions on Twitter — while I patiently awaited experiencing it for myself.
And it wasn’t oversold. Surrounded by flag-waving fans cheering insanely, despite torrential rain at times, it was a showjumping competition like I’d never been to before.
I’ve seen Nations Cups and watched the top riders in action, but seeing them perform on such a stage was brilliant. The backdrop was impressive and the London-themed course — complete with Big Ben, postboxes and the London Eye — was detailed and challenging.
And best of all, we’re going into round two with Team GB in joint second!
To use a clich ©, rain didn’t dampen spirits, though it did try its best. But after a rumble or two of thunder, the sun came out and I could shed the bin liner I’d resorted to wearing (brought along on the advice of eventing ed, and seasoned Greenwich pro, Pippa — other Greenwich first-timers take note).
The cheering was deafening after Nick and Ben’s clear rounds — two of only 12 riders to achieve double clears over the first two days of competition. And Ben’s victorious air punch got whoops of delight.
And, as with yesterday, there were some shocks — I wasn’t expecting Germany and France to fail to get through to the second team round tomorrow. But it leaves us in a nice position, just behind Saudi Arabia and equal with Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden.
Aside from the British riders, crowd favourites — based on the decibels in my section of the crowd at least — included Marcus Ehning, Kevin Staut, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Eric Lamaze and “Captain Canada” Ian Miller, who is competing in an impressive 10th Olympics.
I’m not sure if it was clearer on TV, but with rain, cheering crowds and a limited explanation over the commentary, it wasn’t entirely obvious as to how the scoring system worked. Let’s be honest, it could be simpler. I’ll leave you to read H&H showjumping editor Jennifer Donald’s explanation of the rules.
I can’t wait to go back tomorrow, and I’ll have everything crossed for our riders.
And finally, a very happy birthday to John Whitaker, who was celebrating his 57th birthday at Greenwich Park, and got one of the biggest cheers of the day.