Horse sport must act to stay in Olympics: ‘We are guests at these Games’

  • The clock is ticking for ideas on the Paris 2024 Olympic format, as changes have to be made for horse sport to stay in the Games.

    Olympic format remains a hot topic. The qualification process and decision that teams of three would remain for Paris were confirmed in 2021 (news, 25 November), but the exact format for each discipline and minimum eligibility requirements (MERs) for horses and riders are yet to be set in stone.

    FEI eventing and Olympic director Catrin Norinder told the FEI eventing risk management seminar (22 January) that a questionnaire was sent out to national federations and everyone involved in the Tokyo Games, and they have until 15 February to submit proposals for Paris.

    These will then be debated at the FEI sports forum in April, before going through the usual review process over the summer and finalised at the general assembly in November 2022.

    “We cannot stress enough that the [International Olympic Committee] IOC is putting a huge amount of pressure not only on us, but all the international federations involved in the Olympic Games, that we have to reduce the complexity, most of all the costs, and increase universality for the next Games if we actually want to stay there,” said Ms Norinder.

    “The proof has been given very strongly – they have re-looked at modern pentathlon, they have looked very closely at boxing and weightlifting. So we have to be very conscious of the impact that all our changes have and that we have to continue to review the sport to maintain [our place] in the Olympic Games.”

    She added there is “daily pressure” from the IOC, which held a recent major meeting in Beijing, and even though the Winter Games are taking place, they are “still telling us that we have to be careful on all these things for Paris”.

    FEI eventing committee chairman David O’Connor summarised the qualification system for Paris and reiterated why these format reviews have to happen.

    “We can do what we like with the World Championships or European Championships or other things, but these are not our Games and in a lot of different ways, we are still guests to these Games and asked to be a part of it. And this is what we do to become part of it,” he said. “I do believe that it is really important to be a part of it in every aspect.”

    He added that the MER system is one of the areas under review.

    “Is it appropriate right now? Obviously for countries that have a lot of people and have a lot of events, it seems to be appropriate and they show great pictures. But for some other ones, is the MER process at the right level?” he said.

    “If there are comments, questions or ideas, please forward them so we can put them into the mix and have that conversation during the sports forum and then make decisions in the summer.”

    Looking ahead to Los Angeles 2028

    The shortened time frame in this Olympic cycle puts the review process into fast forward.

    The FEI – and other sports – are in the process of making decisions on Paris 2024 to the backdrop of the Winter Games. Add to that the IOC session in Beijing, ahead of the opening of these Winter Olympics, making decisions on the Los Angeles 2028 Games.

    Equestrian sport was confirmed for the 2028 Games at that IOC meeting, but this is just the “first step”.

    FEI president Ingmar de Vos said the confirmation is a “glowing endorsement of the valuable contribution and legacy that equestrian sport brings to the Olympic movement”.

    “However, this is only a first step. The equestrian disciplines for LA2028 will be decided mid-2023 and the equestrian events and the quota for LA will only be decided after Paris 2024.”

    The IOC measures sports against a list of criteria when making decisions. These include universality, integrity and fairness, gender equality, popularity, plus athlete safety, environmental sustainability and keeping sport relevant to youth.

    “Consolidation of our place in the LA2028 Olympic programme will keep the equestrian community strong and resilient in this competitive sporting landscape,” added Mr de Vos.

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