Yesterday provided a rollercoaster ride for the top-placed eventing Olympians and their team trainers as the medal board switched twice within the space of an hour at the Markopoulo Equestrian Centre.
But now, it seems, the fiasco is far from over, with the announcement that the second, third – and fourth – placed teams will be taking the case further, and exploring every avenue up as far as the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). This means that further changes in the medal positions cannot be ruled out.
There is still a huge amount of confusion surrounding precisely what happened during the team jumping final yesterday afternoon, when the ground jury noticed that the lynch pin of the Gold-medal winning German team, Betting Hoy, had crossed the start line more than once.
“No-one really knows what happened” was the word in the grandstand today, with further discussions expected as the French, in particular, dispute the gold medal which was theirs for one meagre hour yesterday evening.
“First of all we would like to point out that we all pay respect and admiration for Bettina’s performance today,” said French silver medallist Didier Courreges.
“We are not happy with the final results and we feel it is not so difficult to understand why. At first we were pleased with our silver medal, then we cheered about being awarded the gold when the official results were published. Now we are back into silver position and we do not like it!
“We feel that the decision is not fair. Our federation will put a further formal protest against the Appeal Committee’s decision.”
But although it seems that whatever the mix up in the judges’ box, Bettina did cross the start line twice and should be penalised for doing so, the Appeal Committee remained adamant yesterday evening that their decision was the correct one.
“We looked into the situation and we all agreed that the incident was primarily caused by an error in the management of the competition. The clock should not have been restarted,” stressed Hugh Thomas, a member of the committee.
“When errors occur in the management of a competition it is right to make sure that the rider does not pay the consequences. Bettina Hoy had every right to believe that the time started only when she crossed the start line the second time,” he added.
Britain stands to gain in both the team and individual competition, with Leslie Law poised to move up into the individual gold medal position should Bettina Hoy and Ringwood Cockatoo be relegated.
If Germany accrues the debated 12 penalties, it would not be the first time that a major competition had been lost on a technicality. Mark Todd was eliminated at Burghley in 1994 with Bertie Blunt after missing a start flag in Phase A of the speed and endurance. He had been lying in fourth after the dressage.
British team manager Yogi Breisner was quite clear that in this game, fair is fair and competitors should abide by the rules, however technical they may be. “If someone had gone the wrong side of the flag on the cross country then they would have been eliminated. The rules are the rules,” he said.
The furore has cast a shadow over the event, with some competitors labelling it a farce, but eventing fans are likely to have to wait a little longer for the final outcome, as Phillip Pope, at Team GB in Athens, explains: “From hereon, the process will take a matter of days rather than weeks.
“We have approached the FEI to establish that we have explored all other avenues open to us, and the next move is to present our case to the Court of Arbitration. We would expect it to happen fairly speedily.”