The 4th of July celebrations started with a Reception at the Queen’s House (adjacent to the National Maritime Museum). It is just the perfect venue for a reception and we had invited the delegations attending the Test Event from around the world as well as the ITOs and NTOs and representatives from the BOA and BPA. The Reception was attended by HRH the Duchess of Cornwall, Patron of the BEF which was a great honour and those that had the privilege of meeting HRH will hold last night as a special memory. With modern security measures, hosting an HRH does present challenges in terms of trying to herd the guests...many of which consider HRH very much part of the “equestrian family”.
P.S. Rumour has it that the 4th July celebrations for certain Americans continued until 5th July......0630 hours on the 5th July....
So cross-country (XC) day dawned. XC is always the highlight of an eventing competition. So as I Blog you will of course be expecting me to wax lyrical about Piggy French’s faultless round that leaves her 6.9 penalty points (more than one down in the showjumping) ahead of the field or Pippa Funnell’s and William Fox-Pitt’s solid and (to be expected) foot perfect rounds that leaves them 5th and 9th respectively. Sorry to disappoint you but these are not the memories I will take away.
Well done LOCOG....Greenwich Park was heavily populated with school children...kids who have probably never seen a horse up close and personal. The very positive yipping, yapping, clapping, cheering and shouting as horses approached the water jump was unlike anything we have ever seen, heard or dreamt off...it was bloody great. Mandy Stibbe (Chairman of Eventing Selectors) and I watched Pippa through the rails / ditch / brush arrowhead complex... as Pippa cleared the third element the cry went up from about 20 kids.... Pippa.... we believe!
Perhaps too late but please try and buy or get your hands on a copy of the 5th July Times...the photo on the back page explains “legacy” the article by Simon Barnes explains passion.... the combination explain Greenwich. Sorry but those that sought to doubt, sought to criticise and sought to question Greenwich were wrong and you should hide your face in shame and go and watch another sport next year. We might not win medals next year (I sincerely hope this not to be the case) but we will still recognise Greenwich as a truly wonderful venue.
So Pippa Funnell is out walking the XC and this young (I suspect Londoner) kid comes up to her... “Are you in this Race”... “Can I have your autograph?” Pippa – “Well yes....but I am just testing the biro.” The point is that this is just a Test Event but it has had the atmosphere of something truly unique. I suggest you all get engrossed in Pippa’s books...Tilly’s Pony Tails... I have a sneaky suspicion that the Tilly might pay a visit to Greenwich sometime.
The GBR riders have been true stars...endless media engagements and so many people wanting to know more about the sport. At the end of play one came up to me and said; “We should have done more to get out there and meet people who wanted to learn about the sport”. What a great attitude; it is such a privilege to be involved in some way and such a driver to make me ensure that when I awake following the 2012 Games I can look in the mirror and know....there was nothing more that I could have done to help them win medals.
I know I have banged on about this venue but I add one last word.....from the Chef d’Equipe of one of our WEG 2010 Gold Medal winning squads (that would be Vaulting); “Wow what a venue, what a great day, well done all, next year will be fab.”
If ever there was a time for equestrianism within the UK to unite under one banner now is that time. Petty differences should (must) be put to one side and we should be as one, celebrating the glory of the horse.
Celebrating the horse under one banner can encompass all the various facets that these noble beasts bring to us; whether it be elite sport, recreational riding, hunting, racing, trade or the very important therapeutic benefits that horses bring to those less fortunate. Whether it be jumping, dressage, eventing or para-equestrian dressage we will, in 2012, be Equestrian and thus we should present ourselves as Equestrian.
I am occasionally reminded of some major differences between City protocol and country protocol; there were kids hand feeding squirrels in the Park today....wrong wrong wrong: Mr & Mrs Nutkin should know their place; this over familiarity would not happen at home (we think Mr Surl is recovering from the shock of seeing Nutkins not fleeing at the sight of him).