Olympic out­look

Pre­view­ing the ex­cite­ment − and the chal­lenges − that lie ahead in Rio this Au­gust WORDS: ROWAN DIXON

NZ Horse & Pony - - In This Issue -

Pre­view­ing the ex­cite­ment − and the chal­lenges − that lie ahead in Rio this Au­gust

Rio de Janeiro, in ex­otic Brazil, is well known for its le­gendary Car­ni­val, the sexy samba dancers and the world fa­mous beaches – Ipanema and Copaca­bana among them.

But it’s also known for crime, pol­lu­tion and night­mare tra!c – and Brazil has a pre­car­i­ous po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion with moves afoot to im­peach the pres­i­dent over bud­get ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties, while the coun­try faces a mas­sive eco­nomic re­ces­sion.

All of this makes a fas­ci­nat­ing back­drop for the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, which run from Au­gust 5 to 21. It’s the "rst time an Olympics has been held in South America, and prom­ises to be the big­gest Games yet, with a record num­ber of ath­letes (10,500) from a record num­ber of coun­tries (206) tak­ing part in 28 di#er­ent sports, and 306 sets of medals on o#er.

$e eques­trian events – dres­sage, show jump­ing and three-day event­ing – will be held at the Deodoro Olympic Park, a mil­i­tary com­pound which has been vastly up­graded since it hosted the 2007 Pan Amer­i­can Games.

Deodoro will be as se­cure as it gets, with armed sol­diers (there are bar­racks on-site) en­sur­ing peace not only for the horses and rid­ers, but also for the other 10 sports that will be held there, which in­clude pen­tathlon and hockey.

Although Brazil suc­cess­fully staged the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the Olympics are a di#er­ent, and much more com­pli­cated, propo­si­tion. $ere have been howls of out­rage about venues and fa­cil­i­ties be­ing slow to be com­pleted, and a grow­ing un­ease about the "nan­cial bur­den on an al­ready strug­gling pop­u­la­tion.

And although the coun­try de­clared it would sort out the pol­luted wa­ter­ways, there are still wide­spread re­ports of sewage, rub­bish and dead "sh in the ar­eas where the row­ing, ca­noe­ing, sail­ing and other wa­ter sports will be held. Luck­ily, the rid­ers won’t have to worry about that

Deodoro is to the north of the city, around 90 min­utes’ drive from Copaca­bana beach, and about a half an hour from the Olympic vil­lage in Barra.

$e sta­bles have been re­designed and ex­panded, with wider aisles and much more room for the horses. $ere’s a

Deodoro will be as se­cure as it gets, en­sur­ing peace for the horses and rid­ers.”

world-class vet­eri­nary clinic, and the arena foot­ing is said to be top-notch.

Ac­com­mo­da­tion for grooms is also look­ing swish, with new apart­ment blocks be­ing built ad­ja­cent to the venue, of­fer­ing six-per­son, three-bed­room liv­ing quar­ters each with a kitchen and a sit­ting room.

Spec­ta­tors are go­ing to have to face chal­lenges around ex­tor­tion­ate ac­com­mo­da­tion costs, find­ing their way to the var­i­ous venues with un­re­li­able pub­lic trans­port, and po­ten­tial safety risks.

Rid­ers, of course, don’t face any of these is­sues; but even so, they will be deal­ing with a Games in a coun­try that is very dif­fer­ent from the Euro­pean or North Amer­i­can lo­ca­tions where most of them have had for­eign com­pe­ti­tion ex­pe­ri­ence.

One po­ten­tial is­sue for the rid­ers is cabin fever: if you are used to com­pet­ing a large team at events, and train­ing a string at home each day, be­ing stuck in one place for days on end with just one horse is quite an ad­just­ment. And since trans­porta­tion in and out of Rio is lim­ited, rid­ers won’t have a lot of choice; this is a huge con­trast to Lon­don, where ath­letes could get on pub­lic trans­port from Green­wich, where the eques­trian events were held, and ex­plore Lon­don.

There will also be a fair num­ber of bu­reau­cratic hoops to jump through, es­pe­cially for team of­fi­cials. Sev­eral months out from the Games, team vet­eri­nar­i­ans had to send a pro­posed pack­ing list to their own Na­tional Fed­er­a­tions, to for­ward on to Brazil­ian au­thor­i­ties, com­plete with itemised quan­ti­ties and man­u­fac­tur­ers’ ad­dresses of any med­i­ca­tions.

As US dres­sage team vet Dr Rick Mitchell ex­plains, the Brazil­ians are very con­cerned about prod­ucts be­ing smug­gled into the coun­try il­le­gally. “So we’re go­ing to have to main­tain a strict

in­ven­tory… and what is brought in has to match what is be­ing taken out, with doc­u­men­ta­tion of what has been used on each horse.”

No rid­ers will be al­lowed to bring in sup­ple­ments.

Look­ing at the big pic­ture, hav­ing the eques­trian events in one lo­ca­tion close to the heart of the Games (com­pared to 2008 Bei­jing, for ex­am­ple) is a huge bonus. But former FEI sec­re­tary-gen­eral Michael Stone – who was in Rio for the Pan Ams – says don’t be sur­prised if the crowds are light for the eques­trian events, es­pe­cially for dres­sage, see­ing Brazil­ians are not as prom­i­nent in that dis­ci­pline.

“As with many South Amer­i­can coun­tries, eques­trian sport is very elite. So­cially, there is a huge di­vide. So I do think it’s go­ing to be di cult for them to get huge crowds.”

And this will be in sharp con­trast to the Lon­don Games, where not only were the crowds strong for the eques­trian events, they were also knowl­edge­able.

ABOVE The arena fa­cil­i­ties, seen here at last year’s test event, are su­perb

LEFT The Cen­tro de Hip­ismo cross­coun­try course un­der con­struc­tion

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.