Pippa Funnell will be demonstrating the importance of the Olympics to the equestrian community when she takes part in the Olympic Torch Relay in London tomorrow (Saturday, 26 June).
Pippa will be the penultimate of the 140 torchbearers along the 48km route, which starts at Wimbledon at 11am and finishes in central London in the early evening. She will be the only torchbearer to compete her section of the London route on horseback, riding a horse borrowed from the Household Cavalry for the occasion.
“It’s a great honour to be asked to carry the flame,” Pippa told HHO. “I’m looking forward to meeting my mount, which has been kindly lent to me by the Household Cavalry. Although my horses are good in traffic I didn’t fancy asking any of them to cope with the London traffic.”
Five-time Olympic gold medal-winning rower Sir Steven Redgrave will collect the torch from Pippa at the end of Birdcage Walk, before completing the route and lighting the Olympic Caldron in The Mall, where a free concert is set to take place into the evening.
Steve and Pippa are just two of the Olympic and Paralympic sporting stars and celebrities who will carry the torch during its first visit to Britain since 1948. The remainder of the 140 torchbearers are a host of “extraordinary ordinary” torchbearers, who have been chosen because they individually represent the strength, spirit and diversity of the Olympic movement.
Following London’s bid for the 2012 Olympic Games earlier this year, Andrew Finding, Chief Executive of the British Equestrian Federation, is delighted that the Olympic flame is coming to Britain. “The fact that the Olympic flame is coming to Britain and is being carried through London illustrates how significant sport is to the UK within the international community,” he says.
That Britain’s highest profile eventing personality will be the only rider to carry the torch could also be seen as significant following the sport’s recent battle to remain in the Olympics. While eventing enthusiasts may remain divided about the new Olympic format, Finding believes it is vital that all equestrian sports retain their Olympic status.
“It is our desire that equestrian sport stays at the centre of the Olympic family. This will be aptly illustrated when Pippa rides along birdcage walk on Saturday evening,” he explains.
“Pippa is one of the great ambassadors for eventing, for equestrian sport and for sport in general within Britain. We hope she is seen by all members of our industry as representing them as part of a great and leading equestrian nation.”
London is undertaking the 23rd leg of the international Olympic Torch Relay, the theme of which is “Pass the Flame, Unite the World”. The relay began in ancient Olympia, Greece on 25 March. It will pass through all five continents, as represented by the Olympic rings, including Africa and South America for the first time, before returning to Greece on 9 July for the opening ceremony of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.