There is no doubt that the Event Rider Masters (ERM) is bringing a great deal to our sport. The prize money is impressive and the aim of presenting eventing in a way that is TV-friendly is fantastic.
However, it does bring significant on-site challenges when trying to integrate this class with existing events. I don’t envy the scorers at Blair last weekend trying to timetable Sunday — there were three CCI classes coming to a head in the showjumping, alongside the jumping and cross-country phases of the CIC3* and ERM.
The sad casualty of this was the climax of the CCI*, in which overnight leader Jonelle Price was the only one of the top six after cross-country who actually jumped at the end as all the others had to perform early before dashing off to the ERM cross-country.
After her clear round, Jonelle trotted straight back to the stables to make her ERM cross-country time. The prize giving took place without any of the top three present.
While I appreciate the weekend days are the prime time, maybe ERM could be timetabled here in the same way as at Bramham, with the dressage on Friday and the jumping phases on Saturday?
Elsewhere at Blair, event director Alec Lochore designed the cross-country for the first time and all four courses rode well on good ground. He had used many of the feature fences from last year’s Europeans, but with tweaks where necessary and a complete reroute of the tracks. A particular positive was the tidying up of the previously confusing loops around the flat ground at the start and finish.
The Olympic experience
Lots of people have asked about Rio since we’ve been home and every time I’ve said that for H&H’s two journalists and photographer it was a good experience.
The set-up for journalists at the equestrian centre was great, with the press stand, the media centre and the mixed zone (for interviewing) close together. As well as having televisions, we could see the arena from the mixed zone, which is a rare luxury.
The internet worked at both the venue and our accommodation, and the buses between the two were pretty efficient. We were in the Olympic bubble 95% of the time and with armed military personnel everywhere, I never felt security was an issue.
Our flat in the Deodoro Accommodation Village (DAV), which housed press and officials for all the venues in this area, was basic but clean. The only glitch was that it took a couple of days to sort out the hot water. There was decent food available in DAV and we made a few trips by taxi to restaurants nearby.
There has been much discussion about poor crowds at the dressage and eventing. The official figure of 78% of available tickets sold for the eventing dressage simply doesn’t match up with the empty seats we saw — I’d say at most the stands were 40% full.
Our experience was that it was difficult actually to buy tickets. On the last Thursday of the Games, we went to a ticket booth, but were told unless we wanted to pay astronomical prices, nothing was available at any venue.
Soon after, we bought seats online for fencing (the seeding round of the modern pentathlon) and the gold medal men’s hockey match for a total cost of about £30 per person. The fencing was virtually empty, so it wasn’t a case of tickets not being on sale because of a near sell-out. If this was the case for equestrianism, no wonder spectators were sparse.
Ref Horse & Hound; 1 September 2016