British riders’ plans, cancellation rumours quashed and a pivotal weekend: the final Olympic countdown

  • Paris preparations are full steam ahead with a little over a fortnight to go before the opening of the 2024 Olympic Games.

    Paris 2024 organisers and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have both strongly denied any truth in rumours regarding the postponement or cancellation of the Games, owing to the political situation in France, which is facing a hung parliament as no party won enough seats for a majority in the 7 July election.

    A statement from Paris 2024 said it had “become aware of false information circulating about the cancellation of the Paris Games”. It added that “Paris 2024 denies this information and urges people not to share it”, adding that it “will investigate the source of this false information”.

    The IOC has also strongly refuted these rumours, stating: “[They have] no factual basis whatsoever. The IOC president and the entire Olympic movement are looking forward with great anticipation to excellent Olympic Games Paris 2024, starting with the opening ceremony on 26 July.”

    The past weekend was a significant moment for many in preparations and build-up to the Games, ahead of the final Olympic entries deadline that fell as H&H went to press (8 July).

    These included Britain’s reigning dressage world champions Lottie Fry and Glamourdale scoring a double in the CDI4* grand prix and grand prix special at Aachen, in what Lottie described as “the best feeling I could have wished for before Paris”.

    The British showjumping team finished third in the Aachen Nations’ Cup, with a team including Olympic combination Scott Brash and Hello Jefferson jumping double clear; British showjumping performance manager Di Lampard said “the team are really coming together”.

    Ireland’s Austin O’Connor and Colorado Blue topped the Olympic-bound advanced section at Aston-le-Walls, in which British squad members Ros Canter and Lordships Graffalo finished fourth with a steady double clear.

    Defending Olympic eventing champion Julia Krajewski and Nickel 21 were boosted to the alternate spot on the German side heading to Paris, by virtue of their winning performance at Aachen.

    H&H also spoke to British Paris-bound riders last week, for their latest updates as they continue preparations.

    “It looks like we’re shaping up to have a really good team,” Carl Hester told H&H. “Fame and Imhotep have improved at each show and we could see at Wellington CDI that they’re getting back to the level which we had at the European Championships last year, which was important.

    “There’s still a little bit of tweaking to be done and we’ve booked to go to Hartpury for a mock competition 10 days before we go to Paris, just to make sure that we’ve got everything polished.”

    Laura Collett confirmed that her triple five-star winner and Tokyo Olympic team gold medal-winning ride London 52 is back in work and “feeling well”, following the minor injury that led to his withdrawal ahead of the showjumping at Luhmühlen CCI4*-S last month.

    “Touch wood he’s all good; it took a few days for the wound to heal and since then he’s been good,” Laura told H&H. “He is feeling really well, so fingers crossed we have enough vet wrap, bubble wrap and cotton wool for the next few weeks before the Games.

    “It was very annoying for him to have that injury, but it was very obvious straight off what it was – it was something so minor but was sore for him. For me the most important thing – always the most important thing – was he was fundamentally going to be ok, not to go and jump round a showjumping track. It was very frustrating, but the bigger picture was that he’s ok.”

    On the announcement of the British squads (news, 4 July), British equestrian team leader Helen Nicolls said she is “exceptionally proud” of the selected combinations and connections.

    “The hours of preparation, enormous sacrifice and total dedication will now be put to the ultimate test. The teams behind the athletes – both equine and human – have left no stone unturned in their quest to support them to their very best performances,” she said.

    One of Paris 2024’s goals was to be the “greenest” ever Games, with a carbon emissions target of less than half that of the Games at London 2012, Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020.

    The latest update from the organisers, dated 27 June, said the current estimated carbon footprint is “even lower” than the target at this stage.

    “Six years ago, Paris 2024 set itself an ambitious goal of reducing the carbon footprint of the Games,” said Paris 2024 president, Tony Estanguet.

    “We are proud to back up our commitment to the climate by supporting carbon avoidance and capture projects both in France and in the regions of the world most impacted by the effects of climate change.”

    Looking ahead to the Paralympics (28 August–8 September), more than a million tickets have already been sold.

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