Tokyo Olympics: a chance to showcase equestrian sport to the world *H&H Plus*

  • H&H reports from the National Equine Forum where delegates received an update on plans for the Tokyo Olympics, including details of the ‘business class’ flights to Japan being laid on for the equine athletes...

    The staging of the Tokyo Olympic equestrian events in the heart of the city is an opportunity to showcase our sport to the watching world.

    FEI director of games operations Tim Hadaway gave a presentation entitled “All set for Tokyo 2020”, at the National Equine Forum on 5 March, while Henry Bullen, director of specialist equine transport and logistics company Peden Bloodstock, which will fly all the horses to Tokyo, explained how this works.

    He spoke of the work undertaken on both the main equestrian site – which was used for the 1964 Tokyo Games and has since had a complete refurbishment to stage the dressage and showjumping, and house the horses – and the cross-country at Sea Forest Park.

    The former venue now boasts “some of the best facilities you could hope to find anywhere”, Mr Hadaway said, while Sea Forest Park, a reclaimed island and former landfill site, has an added benefit.

    “It has this fantastic backdrop of the city skyline, just like we did in Greenwich [for the London Games],” he said. “We’re going to be right in the middle of the Olympic city; it has great potential to showcase our sport.

    “Some other sports have been moved, but we’re one of the few with the chance to showcase what’s special about Tokyo, which should really help get it out there.

    “In the context of the Olympics, that really matters as we must be part of this global festival of sport, and part of that is being relevant, exciting and good in terms of broadcasting.”

    Mr Hadaway also spoke of measures taken to mitigate the heat and humidity, such as the extensive cooling facilities and staging events early in the morning or late in the evening (news, 7 November 2019).

    He added: “Contingency planning will allow us to make more adjustments to distance, and so on, if we need to, and we’ll have a team of world-class vets there, too.”

    Henry Bullen, director of specialist equine transport and logistics company Peden Bloodstock, which will fly all the horses to Tokyo, explained how this works.

    He said all horses have to spend seven days in quarantine before they fly; for the European horses, this will be in Aachen, Germany. They will then travel, along with 300,000kg of equipment, to Liege, France.

    “There will be 328 horses from about 50 nations,” he said. “There will be two flights per discipline, with up to 50 on each flight.”

    Mr Bullen said the elite equine athletes will travel “business class”, with two horses per container instead of three. The planes will climb less steeply than passenger flights, while grooms and vets will have access to the horses at all times, so “in-flight meals and entertainment” can be provided.

    After the 18-hour flight, with a stop in Dubai, the horses will land at night and be taken by lorry to the equestrian park, arriving nine days before they compete.

    “Most horses do fly very well – it’s probably better for them than going by road as you haven’t got roundabouts, bumpy roads or bad drivers stopping in front,” Mr Bullen said. “Our equine athletes are real globe-trotters.”

    Mr Hadaway added that the International Olympic Committee and Games organisers are in regular contact with the World Health Organisation over coronavirus, and there was “no talk at this stage of any postponement or cancellation”.

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