I’m writing while watching the government’s daily coronavirus briefing. It’s a strange thing; just in one week, I feel like it has become a must-see. I feel like I understand how people may have felt during the last world war, huddling round the wireless.
I don’t think Boris will mention the cancellation of Badminton Horse Trials, but that was the big news today in the horse world. We’ve expected it all week, so it wasn’t a surprise – it feels like a cross between a relief, the relief of certainty, and a body blow of disappointment.
I haven’t missed a Badminton in about 15 years. There will be plenty of others who will have longer memory trails with the event, whether as an official, volunteer, rider, tradestand holder, spectator, groom or other stakeholder. And we will all have our own favourite moments of the week.
For me, it’s the thrill of walking into the media centre for the first time. A bit of banter with those behind the desk. Getting my press badge. Choosing my desk. Meeting other journalists. A hug for those I haven’t seen for some months (yes, remember when hugs were allowed?). Badminton’s early place in the calendar means there is always a cocktail party aspect to it, seeing international members of the media who we might not have seen since the previous year’s championship.
It’s standing in the mixed zone, chewing on a pen, absent-mindedly biro-ing my own front (yes, that’s what I do when I stand around waiting to interview riders – the evidence is all over my coats), watching the live closed circuit television, juggling who to watch and who to interview. Doing both at the same time, writing notes while listening to one rider and watching another. The sudden thrill of a rider telling you something new, something surprising, something fascinating.
It’s the late-night writing on Saturday. Sitting up with a glass of wine, ploughing through cross-country analysis. Highlighting lines on the cross-country times, tiny writing all over the paper to help me remember what happened. Going to bed, buzzing too much to sleep properly.
And of course, it’s not just thrilling moments. The economic impact of Badminton is huge in the local area and across the horse world, from tradestand holders to B&B providers. That’s another whole topic, but I didn’t want to write this without mentioning it.
So, no Badminton this year.
We have to ask, is the Olympics next? On Tuesday, the line was that there is no need for drastic decision. How long can Tokyo hold out?
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I have just seen a news clip online saying athletes want certainty. The problem is, the only certainty can be a cancellation (and even that might not bring certainty if there’s the possibility of a postponement, a new date). Any decision not to cancel is a “not yet” decision.
No one wants to lose the Olympics if we don’t have to. But we have to be realistic. Two weeks ago I put the chances of Tokyo 2020 running at 80%; today I would reverse those odds – and go further.
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