Laura Tomlinson: Will foreign competitors return to the UK? *H&H Plus*


  • Laura Tomlinson on Brexit problems and whether Tokyo should go ahead

    With Brexit now a reality, travelling horses to compete in Europe has become an expensive, severe pain, with ridiculous hoops to be jumped through. British Equestrian has estimated that travel costs have increased by 220 to 320% depending on whether you use the Eurotunnel or the ferry.

    The journey time to Europe is also hard to plan at the moment as it depends how quickly one gets through the multiple checks. One has to plan far ahead as horses’ bloods need checking in advance and the paperwork needed seems to require a diploma in itself. There have also been issues with taking feed and bedding abroad if the relevant paperwork was not provided.

    I cannot see how riders from other European countries will be enticed to make the hop over the Channel to the UK nowadays; it was hard enough to lure them over to compete here before Brexit. There are so many wonderful competitions in Europe that the extra time, cost and effort required just wouldn’t be worth it for them.

    With the March CDI3* at Keysoe sadly cancelled, I have little choice but to go over to Europe if I want to stand a chance of impressing the selectors in time for team selection this year. We have now received some provisional dates for exiting the various stages of lockdown in the UK, but as we learnt last year, we never know when the next lockdown is around the corner, so it seems we must make hay while the sun is shining. It is, however, quite an undertaking, and I must admit I still have no idea what Brexit is meant to have brought us – but don’t worry, I won’t reopen that debate!

    A no-win situation

    While the Brexit dilemma and lockdown is making competing internationally and at home hard right now, it is difficult to imagine how the Olympic Games can be set to go full steam ahead this July.

    Of course, for Japan, it is a no-win situation. They have everything ready and have spent a fortune on what was meant to be the most incredible Games, but they also have a city of people in Tokyo, who understandably do not want to be overrun by foreigners in the midst of a global pandemic.

    I don’t think vaccinations will or can be made compulsory for the Games, because many countries are unlikely to have covered their vulnerable population by then, and one certainly cannot justify Olympic athletes jumping the queue. Can an Olympic Games really be justified in these times? Conversely, is the Olympics exactly what we need at the moment? Hindsight would be a wonderful thing.

    If the Games do go ahead, it will have to be on a much smaller scale, with less entourage and personnel, no live spectators, many masks and a lot of hand sanitiser.

    Empty stadiums will be a strange anti-climax for many athletes, although I’m sure anyone competing for their country in Tokyo will be trying to focus on how lucky they are, rather than what’s missing.

    The lack of atmosphere would help some and hinder others, but these times are testing everyone’s resilience and adaptability, so why should it be any different for athletes?

    On a more positive note, here at home my team and I have decided not to wait and
    to put on our own “in-house” competition, with horses across all levels. We will have good prizes and even a “booby prize” for the most entertaining “mishap”! We will plait up and wear our competition gear, and I’m certain that my husband Mark and our three children will provide plenty of “atmosphere”.

    Also published in H&H 4 March 2021

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