Watching the first session of showjumping at the London 2012 Olympic test event, I couldn’t get away from the feeling that I had stepped into a computer game.
Sitting in the stands looking across at Queen’s House, I had the view which has been much circulated as “artist’s impression” of the arena over the past two or three years. It looks just like the simulation — immaculate arena, colourful jumps, view of historic buildings and the City beyond — even though this is on a smaller scale than next year’s main ring.
I was greeted at the park gates today with the news that all might not be well in the garden of Eden — the showjumpers who arrived this morning to have a leap about in the arena were not happy with the surface, apparently. But over an obviously considerably smaller track, the eventers jumped well. Out of 35 starters, there were 12 clears — helped by the fact the time allowed was very lenient — and a further 14 horses had just one fence down.
I’m sure we will hear more on the showjumpers’ gripes and the organisation’s response, but for me, the overwhelming impression of this event has been positive.
I know it’s an unpopular view in some quarters, but I’ve long been a fan of Greenwich as a site for the Olympics — for me, bringing equestrianism to “the heart of the Games” is a huge plus and bodes well for our future inclusion in the world’s greatest sporting extravaganza. This week, plenty of other people seem to have recognised the thrill of placing an essentially country sport in the middle of the City.
Throwing the eventing community into London has had it’s light-hearted moments too. Eventing world champion Michael Jung was apparently spotted on a red bus this morning, French chef d’equipe Laurent Bousquet got a parking ticket and regular ground jury member Les Smith admitted to taking a train the wrong way out of Gatwick having flown down from Scotland for a day trip yesterday. And I bet the Greenwich Tavern at the park gates has never had such healthy trade, even if riders, trainers and officials aren’t its usual clientele.
Piggy French has just jumped clear to hold her lead going into the second round of showjumping. The top 25 will now jump again in a replica of the Olympic format. Let’s hope she can hold on to take the “test event gold medal” — and what price on her doing the same in 12 months time?
More about the test event in H&H this Thursday, 7th July issue, and next week, 14th July issue.