Horse & Hound chief sub returns to the Olympic Park for the arrival of the Global Champions Tour to London and is surprised by the lack of publicity surrounding the event
A setting in what was part of London’s proudest summer, a startlist including some of the best showjumpers in the world and a glorious English June day. The first ever British leg of the Global Champions Tour (GCT) had all the ingredients for a fabulous event.
But where was the publicity? The day before I visited Stratford, East London, I went to Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwicks. It’s a bit of a schlep on public transport, and involved long hikes at tube stations where I had to switch lines. Nowhere did I see anything suggesting that a prestigious showjumping competition featuring Olympic medallists was taking place just a few stops away.
The stands did fill up on Saturday afternoon, for the main grand prix. But there were still empty seats. I don’t suppose the riders cared much — they were focused on doing their thing — but for the organisers, who had worked so hard to get this London leg off the ground, and the generous sponsor Longines, which has poured an enormous amount of cash into the GCT, it must have been a little disappointing.
That being said, the competition itself was nothing short of magnificent. A decent track for the first and second rounds produced a 10-strong jump-off, which went right to the wire. Nick Skelton rode a superb round on Big Star — now there’s a horse who’s well named! — to be pipped a fraction by Ben Maher and the lovely grey Cella. A British one-two was the perfect result.
And a final, warning, note. I left the Olympic Park and hotfooted to Stratford tube — some genius had planned part closure of the DLR for this weekend. A train came in and I asked a man getting on where it was going. “White City,” he told me. “I want the Central line,” I said. “This IS the Central line,” he responded, just as the doors began to close.
So I went to step on. As the doors continued to close, they somehow pushed me backwards — and I ended up flat on my back on the platform, with my right leg underneath the train. I can tell you, I moved pretty damn quick! The tally — an impressive array of bruises and, somehow, a cracked rib, which is excruciating.
Never again will I ignore the announcement: “Stand clear of the closing doors…“