The first competitive equestrian event to be held at Horse Guards Parade, the Global Champions Tour (GCT), was well received by showjumping fans and riders alike — while 0.7m viewers tuned in on BBC2.
It was a second home win in two years at the London leg of the GCT as a packed crowd gave world number ones Scott Brash and Hello Sanctos a standing ovation in the €148,500 to the winner feature class on Saturday (16 August).
“I feel like the luckiest person right now,” said Scott, who won the GCT final in Doha in November 2013. Last year’s inaugural event at Stratford was won by Ben Maher.
The central location garnered a more positive reaction than the 2013 site at the Olympic Park, which was criticised by fans for being too far out and sporting empty stands.
However, crowds were low on Thursday and Friday (14-15 August), with more than half the seats empty — although this could be attributed to weekdays and bad weather.
“There’s not much atmosphere,” commented one visitor. “The crowd seem fairly disinterested,” said another.
Other gripes included a lack of affordable places to buy drinks or food and long breaks between classes, much like the grumbles recorded by H&H last year (news, 13 June 2013).
However, Saturday was brightened up by Scott’s home win and sunshine.
“It is great to have an event like this in such an iconic location in the middle of central London. The crowd really got behind Scott and it was so exciting that he won,” said Sarah Booth from West London.
BBC coverage was also a boost for the sport —although slightly down from 0.8m viewers last year. A BBC spokesman told H&H this was “not a concern” however, as events often see “fluctuations”.
“I was disappointed not to be there, but I loved the TV coverage,” said fan Fiona Piper. “Clare Balding just gets better and better.”
Hannah Wallis from south London added: “Tickets were quite pricey, which was a shame, so I watched it on TV instead. It was brilliant to have showjumping on the BBC.”
Riders also praised the venue.
“This is a fairytale setting,” said Alexandra Crown, USA, winner in the two-star section.
Michael Whitaker added: “It’s a fantastic location — just what we need.”