So far, the European Eventing Championships 2021 is proving dreamy.
Let me explain.
Firstly, the setting. Team H&H are staying in Murten, a beautiful little town on a lake, full of attractive buildings and lovely restaurants.
My hotel – booked months ago, relatively cheaply – has exceeded any expectations, with a view of the lake, excellent croissants for breakfasts and a white-painted room, complete with one of those sweet desks where you flip down the lid to create the work surface (a bureau desk? Is that what it’s called?). The internet is non-existent half the time, but a lake view takes precedence, right?
Secondly, the Brits are excelling. We knew they would be strong coming in here, but for Nicola Wilson and Piggy March to hold first and second individually – with Izzy Taylor also in the top 10 – is a punchy start. Fingers crossed for more success today and over the weekend.
Thirdly, the weather is glorious. Chilly in the mornings, granted, but hot enough later that you feel like you need to slap out the suncream.
Fourthly, the Covid restrictions here are not too onerous. You can enter Switzerland without tests if you’re double vaccinated and at the event, if you’re double vaccinated, you are given a wristband and off you go (if you’re not vaccinated, you are tested instead).
Restaurants are open, we can visit the supermarket! Such small pleasures would have seemed normal two years ago, but particularly after our very restricted visit to the Tokyo Olympics, eating food that isn’t delivered by Uber Eats and popping out to buy some sour sweets in a supermarket seems like nirvana.
The town is full of owners bravely swimming in the lake and crowding into restaurants to sample a steak or a pizza. Much as owning a horse that goes to the Olympics is a huge honour, one has to think these owners are having more fun, able to attend the event, in a beautiful area and relaxed atmosphere, rather than watching on television from afar.
It’s rather similar for us journalists. The Olympics will always be the peak of a sports journalist’s career and, having been to two, I’m still super keen to be at Paris 2024. Tokyo was, in many ways, easier than I expected logistically and, with brilliant British performances, to be there was a huge privilege.
But for pure fun, this wins. For not wearing a mask constantly, eating a cheese fondue, taking a run round the lake before the action starts.
There seems to be time here, too, which there never was in Japan. Evening sport sounds like it gives you all day free, but that’s never the case. There was never a night during the Olympics when I had enough sleep, never a moment when I didn’t have three jobs on my mind that I needed to get done. At least during the pure dressage and showjumping, with all the action in the evenings, we settled into some sort of rhythm. The eventing schedule lurched frantically from late nights to early mornings, leaving one jet-lagged and bleary-eyed. It was exhilarating… but exhausting.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to report the European Eventing Championships 2021, if I’d be over it after Tokyo. But I’m so glad I’m here.
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