Jane Gregory’s Olympic Games diary: the opening ceremony

  • The waiting is very nearly over now. The atmosphere here in Hong Kong is amazing and I can’t wait for the competition to start.

    As I write this I have just got back from our ‘opening ceremony’ in the covered parade ring at Sha Tin racecourse. Everyone wore their special team kit and each of the nations paraded with their flags. The World Youth Choir sang for us and traditional Chinese dancing lions performed. There were speeches and we had a countdown to the start of the main opening ceremony in Beijing. It made everyone feel very special.

    We arrived on Wednesday after enjoying a pleasant flight and things have gone quite smoothly since. After freshening up, all the British riders had supper together, which was a really nice start to the whole experience. I didn’t get to see my horse the first night, but was assured that he had travelled and settled in well and Rachel, my groom was with him.

    Next morning we got the bus from the hotel to the stables. The journey takes about 25/30mins. It is a huge shock being in the middle of this bustling city. Hong Kong has an extraordinary panorama. There are massive skyscrapers, the harbour, boats and barges. I’ve been here before but it never fails to take your breath away.

    On arrival at Sha Tin racecourse you pass through the first accreditation point. It’s efficient but friendly. Bags go through an X-ray machine, like at an airport, and we have our passes checked. Even though we aren’t in Beijing, you feel very aware that you are part of the Olympics.

    To get to the stables you first pass over a footbridge over the racetrack. This takes you into Penfold Park, which is situated in the centre of the racecourse. It’s all very green and there are lots of lovely flowers. I’ve even seen turtles sunbathing in the grass! And there are white heron-like birds that flap and can spook the horses while you are exercising them under the floodlights at night. There is an all-weather track that can be used for hacking and a grass area where the eventers can have some cross-country practise. Penfold Park is used by the racehorses until 9am every morning, but after 9am it is open for the Olympic riders to use.

    When you get to the stables there is another security check and you have to disinfect your hands and shoes before getting access to the stables themselves. All of the stables here are big and airy, with air conditioning and rubber floors. The horses here want for nothing. They have got the best quality shavings, the best possible hay and the biggest carrots I have ever seen! All the British horses are in one block and although space is at a premium, it’s not a problem. There is a big Union flag at the entrance and smaller flags over the stable doors. There is a great team feeling and we have everything we need with iced water, a deep freeze, toilets and meeting rooms all on hand. The Hong Kong Jockey Club really has gone all out to make it as good as possible for all the teams.

    There are many arenas available to ride in, including a massive indoor school, which is air conditioned. I believe it used to be badminton courts and has been transformed for the Games. All of the arenas have the same surface and the footing is excellent. There are also arenas dotted around Penfold Park and there are plenty of misting fans available. The first time I took Lucky Star in to the fans he was a bit shocked at being blasted with a cold water mist straight into his face and reversed straight back out again, but he quickly got over that and now enjoys standing in there. It’s a great way to get your temperature back down as a rider too!

    The heat hasn’t been too bad since we arrived. It was hot, but not humid, at first and then we had a typhoon a couple of days ago. We got grounded to the hotel for most of the day as it was a force 8 storm. There were high winds and driving rain so the horses stayed in their stables as well. Since then we have had some heavy rain and some breaks in the weather. The temperature and humidity is expected to rise once the rain has passed, which is likely to make it uncomfortably sticky.

    Lucky Star is loving the VIP attention he is getting — the horses are all being treated like kings! He has settled in fine and is eating and drinking well. He has lost a little bit of weight, but not so much that it is a concern. We have been training at night under the floodlights, which are incredibly bright. I rode him at 10pm yesterday and he felt as bright as a button. Now we are here I am really looking forward to the big day arriving!

    There is so much to talk about, but I’d better stop now and concentrate on the job in hand!


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