The Longines Global Champions Tour of London finishes today (16 August 2014) with the grand prix. Here the tour’s president Jan Tops shares his thoughts on making equestrian history… and THAT jump-off 12 months ago.
Planning an international event
Staging a major international sports event on such a unique and historic site as Horse Guards Parade Ground demands detailed planning. We have worked closely with the Royal Parks for many months to make the event happen. Of course, the complex logistics on a site like Horse Guards Parade Ground can be challenging for a range of reasons — historic buildings, security and it being a very busy area — but we have an experienced team who put on events in cities like Shanghai and next to the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
An iconic venue
Horse Guards is a stunning venue and it is a landmark location famous all around the world.It is good to come into central London because part of the GCT’s vision is to bring showjumping to as many people as possible, and that means being in the centre of the great cities of the world. It is a fantastic, iconic site.
The jump-off in London last year with Ben Maher and Nick Skelton was absolutely sensational and ranks as one of the best. We have had some really great jump-offs in our sport since the tour was launched and each year the standard of competition gets higher and higher.
Raising the level of the sport
I am very proud that since we started the GCT it has lifted the whole sport of showjumping on many levels. It has been very positive for all stakeholders, whether you are talking about riders, owners or sponsors, and of course for the sport itself. I’m happy the GCT has been the catalyst for this and for all the other shows to raise the level of the sport.
We made history for jumping when we added Shanghai to our GCT series. It was a true milestone. We put in a lot of effort and time working closely with the Chinese government and the European Commission to get permission. As we continue to expand we are getting interest from different parts of the world. It’s a huge operation now — there are hundreds of people involved in the events to bring the whole operation together. I think there were almost 200 people in Shanghai alone.
Dedication, focus and unrelenting hard work
I had a very strong vision when I launched GCT and I knew this would require a lot of dedication, focus and unrelenting hard work. Of course there are challenges when you are growing an international sports circuit in different countries and cultures, but you have to stay focused and determined. We have very good co-operation with our local partners.
The importance of being open minded
I have been in the horse world for over 30 years, travelling to shows all over the world and being involved in all parts of showjumping. As an owner, rider and trainer you get to know what is needed, and what works and what doesn’t. You must be open-minded and look outside your own sport. Being open-minded also means looking to the future and innovating while respecting tradition. We must keep looking at new things for the good of the sport.
Training riders from Qatar
It is a pleasure to be working with [training] the riders from Qatar. They are very determined and have strong support from the government. They are a real sports nation and like the best for their country and athletes. They have big ambitions for sport in the same way they have shown ambition in business and investment.
I come from an entrepreneurial family. My father and mother were very busy people, so it comes naturally to me. I am always active.
Ludger Beerbaum is a stand-out rider. He still looks focused despite all the incredible things he has achieved and has been very consistent over recent seasons. He has a very serious approach to the sport.
Don’t miss our full report from the Longines Global Champions Tour of London in the 21 August issue of Horse & Hound magazine