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Eventing faces Olympic threat

FEI prepare to do battle after a review into sports which could be excluded in the Olympic programme for Beyjing in 2008 includes three-day eventing

The long-threatened decision as to whether eventing will remain in the Olympic movement may be taken by the International Olympic Committee at a meeting in November in Mexico and at least by next March.

A commissioned review of the Olympic programme for Beijing 2008 has concluded that three sports and five disciplines be excluded from that year’s Games, of which eventing is one.

Other sports are baseball, modern pentathlon, softball, boxing, canoe-kayak slalom, wrestling, racewalking and a reduction in the quota of sailing events.

Despite the efforts of the FEI to reduce organisational costs with one cross-country day at Athens, plus work into safety, the commission concludes that too much land is required, the cost is too high and that safety is still too much of an issue.

The report states: “These venue requirements cause challenges in reaching a high global participation and the danger for athletes and horses was also noted.

“The commission therefore recommends the exclusion of the eventing equestrian discipline from the programme of the XXlX Olympiad.”

In fact, Beijing has already gone down the line of working on a three-day event sites, with representatives attending major three-day events in the last 12 months and inviting Mike Etherington-Smith, the technical delegate for Athens, to advise.

The FEI has expressed its surprise that changes are proposed for 2008 because Beijing was allocated the Games under the condition that all sports and disciplines present in Athens were included.

Eventing must now galvanise itself to make strong representations before November if it is not to be dumped.

An emergency meeting of the FEI three-day event committee is being held at Heathrow Airport tonight (Sunday) decide a strategy.

Committee member Mike Etherington-Smith, who has already been advising on the Beijing site, said: “Be assured that we’re preparing to go into battle. The implications are horrendous. What is disappointing is that while we have always known this an issue, we were not told it had reached such a high level.”

Blyth Tait, the 1996 Olympic champion, said: “We should have seen this coming. The trouble is that the Olympics keep going to countries that don’t want eventing facilities. We will now have to be pro-active because it is only by being in the Olympics that we will get the recognition the sport deserves.”

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