“Look at the view!” I exclaimed, halfway up a hill on a London Olympic test event cross-country course walk this afternoon.
In truth, my pause was mainly an excuse to have a rest on the steep slope, but turning back, we were rewarded with a stunning look across London to the O2 and the main Olympic stadium.
There were times this afternoon — the first day of action at the equestrian test event, if you can call a horse inspection action — when we could have been at Any Championship, Anywhereville. I was lucky enough to go to the test event in Hong Kong for the 2008 Olympics — don’t worry, there wasn’t a breakdown in the H&H expenses policy, the Hong Kong Tourist Board paid — and I remember having the same feeling there, as familiar face after familiar face appeared.
Today, even the weather conspired to make me think I might be abroad. With the conditions sunny and later humid, I wondered at times if I had returned to Hong Kong, or perhaps been transported back to last year’s Kentucky World Equestrian Games. With my accreditation hung round my neck, officials in matching T-shirts and a mix of top event riders and those from the lesser nations, it had the familiar championship feel.
Having all this in London is both reassuring — I laughed today when someone asked where we were staying, as Wandsworth is home — and somehow disorientating. I’ve never been to a horse trials courtesy of Oyster Card.
There were moments when we were firmly reminded we were in London. Walking the course, by far the most picturesque fence is number five, a banana-shaped construction painted blue with gold stars (left). Horses jump over it, seemingly into the already famous view down to Queen’s House and the City beyond. No prizes for guessing what will be the most photographed fence at the test event.
This afternoon’s trot-up did show more “action” than most — four horses held, of which one, Sweden’s Jedi Dancer, ridden by Dag Albert, was spun. He’ll certainly be hoping for better luck next year.
The Brits field a crack team of riders — William Fox-Pitt, Piggy French and Pippa Funnell (Pippa and Piggy pictured below right exercising Billy Shannon and DHI Topper W this afternoon), although obviously not on their top horses for this CIC** event. This is unusual for a test event, but everyone wants to try a piece of Greenwich and it would certainly be a feel-good boost for the home team to go into the Olympics off a test event win, albeit unofficial as there isn’t actually a team contest.
I’ll be in the office tomorrow — again, it’s weird to have a day at my desk before nipping back to the event on Tuesday and Wednesday — but two other H&H staffers, Catherine Austen and Charlotte White, head to Greenwich to scout out what’s happening for the magazine and website, so stick with us to find out how the “London Prepares” equestrian test event goes.
More from the test event in H&H, issues 7th and 14th July.