‘Spine-tinglingly good’: Paris Olympics to be a ‘really special moment’ for horse sport

  • Preparations are “on track” for this summer’s Olympics and Paralympics – and Britain has the horses and people to make them successful Games.

    That was the message from British Equestrian (BEF) at the National Equine Forum on Thursday (7 March), at which chief executive Jim Eyre and performance director Helen Nicholls updated guests on Britain’s preparation for Paris.

    Ms Nicholls said she had been on a recent visit to the Palace of Versailles, where the equestrian events will be held.

    “They’re doing a really good job; it’s all on track,” she said. “It’s pretty well on its way, and the seats are even starting to go in. It will look absolutely amazing.”

    Ms Nicholls said the warm-up arenas are also going in.

    “It’s really starting to come together,” she said. “This is going to be a really special moment for equestrianism. Even with no one there, it looked spine-tinglingly good.”

    Ms Nicholls cited the golden post boxes, installed in all gold medallists’ home towns after the London Games 12 years ago, as something that “stands out for me, on what the Games are all about”.

    “People who had never done any sport in their lives were campaigning for these golden post boxes; this really matters,” she said. “It’s the moment sport is on all the front pages. And it’s so tough for the athletes, who are trying to do the hardest thing in the world; to be successful on one given day, every four years.

    “I was at British Sailing and what we always said is ‘You’ve got to keep your head out of the boat’; there’s no point going fast if it’s in the wrong direction.”

    Mr Eyre said that the BEF also has to have its sights firmly set on the 2028 and 2032 Games, adding that when it comes to sports’ inclusion in the Olympics, the International Olympic Committee puts huge store by the number of spectators and amount of engagement each has.

    “So it’s crucial everyone in our demographic turns on and tunes in,” he said. “We’ve got really good riders, great horses and passionate owners.”

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