The excitement of the Tokyo Olympics will “resonate across the country” to the benefit of equestrian sports, it is hoped, as preparations for next summer’s Games continue.
Alec Lochore and Haruta Yasuhiko, of the Games’ organising committee, updated national federations on progress at the FEI general assembly in Moscow (16 to 19 November).
Mr Lochore said the test event held in August had allowed the team to gather data, on issues such as mitigating the heat, travel and the way volunteers and officials will have to work.
“We needed to build a team that’s extremely committed to delivering a great Games,” he said.
Mr Lochore said more than 200,000 applications were made for 80,000 volunteer positions at the Games, which will be very popular, if the recent Rugby World Cup is anything to go by.
“That’s generated mass interest in sport and the power of hosting it has resonated throughout the country — we hope we can do the same for equestrian sport,” he said, adding that 3.9m tickets have been sold, and that equestrianism sales have been “very successful”.
From April, there will be festivals to “create anticipation” while the Olympic torch relay starts in March.
Mr Lochore said the athletes’ village is 26km — about an hour’s journey — from the equestrian park, where all dressage and showjumping takes place, and which has been completely rebuilt since it was used for the 1964 Games. Sea Forest Island, where the eventing cross-country will run, is 28km, or about 70 minutes, from the park, but only 8km from the village.
In the equestrian park is grooms’ accommodation, 332 stables in air-conditioned blocks, an 80x100m main arena, the surface of which was praised at the test event, plus a further five arenas. There is also a grazing and cross-country schooling area, plus seven cooling zones, as well as the cooling facilities in the stables.
At Sea Forest Island, there are two air-conditioned stable blocks, sand and grass warm-up areas and 400sqm cooling tents.
“We’re going to do all we can to ensure the success of Tokyo 2020,” Mr Lochore said.
FEI president Ingmar de Vos had also told delegates all team spots have been filled — 20 teams in showjumping and 15 each in dressage and eventing — from a total of 28 nations. A “select few” nations have qualified teams in all three disciplines, including Britain and Ireland. Eventing first-timers include Thailand and China — it is also a first for China in showjumping.
Mr de Vos pointed out this increased number of nations was a direct result of the new format — three to a team with no drop score — that will feature next year for the first time.
He also stressed that the formats had come about as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was “adamant our product had to adapt”.
“It was change or be changed and as always, we went for a proactive approach,” he said. “The key goals were to allow more nations in, and make events more exciting and appealing to the broader audience, and more broadcast-friendly.”
Mr de Vos said London 2012 was the first time all sports were evaluated by the IOC, and that this included media coverage — the FEI was “made very aware” this needed to improve.
By allowing more nations to compete, this ensures coverage in more areas, and as all sports will be evaluated again in Tokyo, it is “vital” audience figures increase, “to consolidate our position in the Olympic programme”.
“We need to give these formats a chance and focus on the positives,” he added. “Failure is not an option. It’s important we’re open-minded, and we need to look at the excitement the formats will bring. There’s one way forward, and that’s to work together.”
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