Britain’s equestrians are still celebrating the news that London will host the 2012 Olympic Games.
“It’s wonderful news,” said Andrew Finding, chief executive of the British Equestrian Federation (BEF).
Competition is due to begin in Greenwich’s 75-acre park on 29 July 2012. Facilities will include a cross-country course, temporary equestrian stadium for up to 23,000 spectators, warm-up areas and on-site stabling all within the park.
Simon Brooks-Ward, equestrian advisor to the Athens Olympics, was part of the original working group, which decided on the venue. He then assembled the finer details of the bid.
“It was like a light bulb going off — I could see it very easily,” said Brooks-Ward. “The going in Greenwich Park is the best I’ve ever been on because it has not been tampered with — it is soft and has natural gullies. Greenwich had all the right criteria.”
London 2012 is estimated to cost £2.375billion in total, £11.4m of which is earmarked for the temporary equestrian facilities — tiny in comparison to the £40m spent in Sydney and £200m spent in Athens.
Brooks-Ward added that there are plans for various sites around the country — including Great Leighs and Hickstead, which were contenders for the 2012 venue — to house training/holding camps for other nations in the run-up to the Games.
The 2012 bid team is next month being replaced by a transition company, which will set up the London Olympic Games Organising Committee (LOGOC). Tessa Jowell has been appointed Olympics Minister.
Britain boasts a wealth of world-class course builders, designers, commentators, vets and other technical officials, but the FEI will decide which officials actually run London 2012’s equestrian event, in consultation with LOGOC and the BEF. No decisions on who will be involved are expected before 2008.
Brooks-Ward hopes he will be among them: “I probably stand as good a chance as anybody and I’d love to be involved.”
“Greenwich is right at the heart of the Games, bringing people in who wouldn’t normally see elite equestrian competition,” said Will Connell, BEF performance director. “Let’s hope lots of people take up riding on the back of it.”