New formula for Olympic dressage

  • All is set to change in Olympic dressage. The FEI dressage committee, which met in London last weekend, has drafted the recommendations on how smaller dressage teams would work at future Olympics.

    Following a heated debate, the FEI General Assembly decided in April that it would reduce Olympic team sizes from four to three riders, plus a reserve. Given the current constraint, which sees a maximum of 50 riders competing in Olympic dressage, this will allow more countries to take part in the sport. The new rule will come into force from the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the FEI dressage committee was tasked to find a practical way to make it work.

    If the committee’s recommendations are approved by the FEI Executive Board, both the main team combinations and their reserves will take part in the trot-up at future Olympics. The reserves will be allowed to replace an ill or injured pair up until the start of the grand prix.

    British Dressage, however, have serious reservations about the move. “We are very concerned that the change in numbers of team members at Olympic Games,” says BD spokeswoman Jo Bagnall. “It could easily jeopardise team results and will also make it more difficult for horses and riders to gain experience at this level.”

    The dressage committee also recommended that Moscow would host the 2005 European Championships (27-31 July). The championships had originally been scheduled to take place in the Russian capital but looked likely to move elsewhere after a number of problems beset the organisers over recent weeks.

    The Russian Equestrian Federation announced earlier that it was planning to move the Europeans from the Luzhniki sports complex to the Trade Unions Equestrian Centre in the Bitsa forest park, southern Moscow, where the Olympics were held in 1980. This sparked concerns over whether the Bitsa facilities were adequate to host a top level event, leading to Germany and the Netherlands offering replacement venues.

    However, after an FEI judge inspected the Bitsa equestrian centre, the dressage committee meeting approved the change of venue, which they are now recommending to the board. “The old Olympic venue has been completely refurbished,” confirms a federation spokeswoman.

    “We are delighted that Moscow will be hosting the European Dressage Championships,” says Bagnall of British Dressage. “It is a huge undertaking to host a show of this level, but it also yields excellent rewards in opportunities for all those who can get involved. We are pleased to see dressage flourishing in countries outside of Western Europe as growth in the sport is vital for all of us.”

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