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Olympic blog: spectator tips, empty seats and a good British showing

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Just back from Olympic eventing dressage at Greenwich. Back – in my flat. I still can’t get used to it. I’m at a top-class horse trials and it’s happening on my doorstep. Well, perhaps 10 miles away, on the other side of London, but nonetheless, it’s in the city I have called home for nearly a decade.

It’s a shame there were tiny glitches today for spectators, because overall it was a fantastic day. I was there on a regular ticket, acquired through the first ballot, and just looking around that stadium made my heart beat faster.

Water was the main problem, as our deputy news ed Charlotte has reported – we queued for 50min to fill up this morning – and I’m not sure what advice to offer. Take empty bottles in the hope it improves and be prepared to buy if necessary (and if it’s not sold out, as some stands were today).

Charlotte also mentioned food queues. We took lunch with us, which seems the easiest option.

A couple of other tips. Glancing at a programme over someone’s shoulder, I don’t think they contain a running order or competitor info. Apparently there was almost a fight to grab one of the few time sheets on offer from the information stand, so I recommend printing these from the internet at home. (Today’s results with times for tomorrow below).

For full biogs and a scorecard to fill in, you can’t do better than H&H’s pull-out from 26 July issue, so nip to the newsagent for one of those. Ok, I’m biased – I wrote all the eventing biogs – but I genuinely used mine today to fill in scores and three people asked me where I got it.

Final tip – the venue turfed people out around 5.45pm tonight, so if you want to walk the course tomorrow, try to get at least part of it done before the dressage or at lunchtime.

Course-walking may be part of the reason there were some empty seats today, which has attracted attention online. I don’t know the full story, but certainly people were in and out looking at the track, queuing for food and water and so on.

Also, not everyone who “won” a ticket for the Games is a die-hard fan who wants to sit through a whole session. The couple on my right spent the morning working out how the scoring was done – “is seven the maximum mark?” – and didn’t return for the afternoon. On the left were two boys dressed in top hats and tails and carrying hobby horses. Kinda fun, though when they poured beer over the woman in front, they lost my vote. One of them napped through the afternoon and they popped in and out during the day.

And the dressage? I’m delighted for Mary King, who let Imperial Cavalier have a good look round when he came into the arena and then managed his tension brilliantly. What a shame they just missed their moment in the final flying change for overnight third instead of first.

I’d love Nicola Wilson to have been just on the other side of the 50-barrier, but neither she nor Opposition Buzz did anything wrong. All being well, she will be a discard score for the Brits after this phase, but will finish on or near this mark to provide a solid back-up if it’s needed.

The marking seems relatively conservative, which, I believe, is good news for Britain. Ingrid Klimke’s lead is well deserved, but I’m pleased to see her on 39.3 instead of the 30 she scored at last year’s Europeans. I didn’t see that test, so can’t make a real comparison on whether it’s the marking or genuinely not such a good performance, but at present the Brits are 13.5 penalties behind the Germans, with the Aussies in between (and we’ve only had two scores so far, so no “discard” in our halfway mark, unlike those two teams, who have had three riders perform already).

A lot can change tomorrow, but if we could hold or reduce that margin on the leaders, I certainly wouldn’t be panicking going into the jumping phases.

Pippa

Report on first day’s dressage action

Don’t miss H&H’s full report of the Olympic eventing, in the issue on sale FRIDAY 3 August – 23-page special report, with comments from Ruth Edge, Pippa Funnell and Mark Phillips, pictures of every cross-country fence, stunning photos and full analysis.