The majority — if not all — of the 40 jumps on the three-star Olympic cross-country course in Greenwich Park will be portable structures, built off-site and installed within four weeks of the Games in July 2012.
Course-designer Sue Benson (pictured) believes they will form an exciting and varied course for the world’s top eventers.
“Cross-country design has incorporated portable obstacles for many years and designers are used to working with them,” said Mrs Benson.
The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) submitted its £42m plan to hold the equestrian elements of the Olympic Games in Greenwich Park to Greenwich Council earlier this month (news, 17 December).
It announced that the park would be totally closed to the public for a month, except for a children’s play area and flower garden.
This would be much longer if the cross-country elements were built from the ground in the park, said Mrs Benson.
“Groundwork will be done on the site prior to the test event [4-7 July 2011] and we shall have all the normal features, like drops and ditches, which you would expect from a course. But I shall be using the natural features of the park, the fabulous slopes and hills, and the treed acres as well as galloping areas.”
She said the fences will be fixed to the ground using Spirafix “ground anchors” — an ecologically friendly alternative to posts — and added that she would be able to be “flexible” with her design “up to the last minute”.
British eventer Mary King said she was all for using portable jumps if they look natural.
“I’m very positive about the competition and totally understand why they need to use portable jumps,” she told H&H. “The best temporary jumps can look very natural and, if it is necessary because of the venue at Greenwich, that’s fine with me .”
But New Zealand rider Andrew Nicholson said a course comprising all temporary fences would be tough on the horses.
“Horses have to work very hard to jump solid portable fences because they don’t like to touch them. With natural fences they are able to rub the jumps a little and save a bit of effort.
“It will be hard on horses when they [the organisers] are trying to introduce the maximum number of jumping efforts in the course.”
Equestrian competition manager for the Games Tim Hadaway (pictured above) said: “Portable jumps allow us to deliver the course quite quickly, reducing the impact on the park and its users.
“It also allows us to clear the course quickly. There will be a wide range of structures, although the final designs are still being worked on by Sue and the course-builders.”
Greenwich Council’s planning committee is due to decide on the application by March 2010.
This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (24 December, ’09)