Friday, 8 July 2011

Will signs off from Greenwich

I am very sorry that I did not post something immediately after the Test Event. 

Wednesday was a manic day and almost as soon as we had finished at the Venue the World Class / Team staff headed off to a restaurant to discuss what we had learnt during the week.  My aim was to write something while I was sitting in Heathrow waiting to fly to Copenhagen for Falsterbo CSIO5* - the next round in the FEI Nations Cup series....Well that was my plan but I caught up in trying to understand why one of our leading newspapers (broadsheet) decided to run an article with the headline “Riders Slam Greenwich”. 

The article reported that the surface was not yet of the standard required for the Jumping but I felt failed to mention other important matters......maybe, for example, that GBR were first and third in the CIC2* - yup Piggy won it by a golden mile and Pippa Funnell once again demonstrated why she is the only person to win the Grand Slam (Badminton / Burghley / Lexington):  Whilst winning the CIC was perhaps the not most important aim of the Test was damn pleasing to see two Brits standing on the Podium receiving their medals from HRH the Duchess of Cornwall.

I do not claim to understand the psychic of some of the Press – maybe I need to spend more time trying to understand or maybe I need to just accept that there are some journalists that really are onside and there are those that will seek out the negatives. I am in no doubt that the pressure Team GB will be under next year from the Press will be immense and I fear could act as a performance inhibitor rather than an enhancer. Of course the Press must report the ups and the downs but a balanced approach is what is needed: they also have the power to really help the Nation get behind the Games or they can create Cilla Black used to say.... ‘The choice is yours’. 

Back to the Test Event. 

Wednesday morning kicked off with the “Jumping Demo”...Nick Skelton, Laura Kraut, David O’Brien, David McPherson, Ben Maher and William Funnell all competed two rounds (ok, so David O’Brien didn’t quite ‘complete’ the second round due to an involuntary dismount) with the second round against the clock. The track was around 1.50m but not overly technical.  Whilst giving the venue a very positive thumbs-up, all agreed that the surface needs to be improved for next year.  I wonder whether it was the right decision to have a Jumping & Dressage “demo” – perhaps we should have looked in more detail at the timelines that existed for the preparation of the surface and the fact that there was not the water supply there will be next year. Conversely, it is better to get the discussions out in the open now. I am quietly confident all will be fine for next year and the ball is firmly in LOCOG’s / the surface provider’s court to show that the surface will be spot on.....just like it has been at other shows.

The last logistical action of the Test Event was for Piggy to go and collect a banner from the protestors (anti Greenwich Park being used for the Games).  The banner read....Go Piggy, Go Piggy, please..go...home.  Well Piggy did go home....clutching her London Prepares Gold Medal....yipee.

We had a very productive evening on Wednesday discussing what we had learnt – you will, I hope, forgive me if I do not go into more detail as we do not want Johnny Foreigner to hear all our secrets but discussions did go on for nearly 4 hours.  We were looking at three main areas; what could we feed back to LOCOG to help them learn from the Test Event, what adjustments do we need to make to our “Plan” and do our Test Event “experiences” alter our thoughts on the “soft” side of what will happen next year...e.g. Home Advantage V Home Disadvantage.  A good nights work that once again reinforced how lucky I am to work with such a committed and talented team.

The Test Event has been hard work and certainly involved far more work than say the Test Event in Hong Kong.... Demonstrations / ticket distribution / receptions and of course the CIC2*....... also work added when certain people forgot their tickets!.... all run through the World Class office.  So it is very, very well done to Sophie Thomas, Sarah Armstrong, Nikki Franck-Steier and Debbie Lee for all their hard work to pull together the logistics plan and Claire Shand and Pippa Wade for herding the Press.

Falsterbo CSIO5* the tip of a peninsula....near a beach populated by the beautiful people of Sweden...glorious sunshine....scantily clad Swedish ladies.......NO is cold and raining. My biggest concern is that the weather could impact on the Bunny Jumping.... yes, jumping rabbits is big sport in Sweden and they are here in force.

The FEI Nations Cup is 8 competitions for 8 teams: At the end of the Series two Nations are relegated and two promoted for the “Promotional League”.  We are missing some of our top equine stars and it is a real challenge to stay in the top level league.....  After 3 Shows GBR is sitting at 4th with 16 points, USA are on 11.5, GER / FRA on 11 and DEN on 4.......  Germany and France have their “big guns here in Falsterbo... so today is going to be high tension. If this weather keeps up then the ground (it is a grass arena) is going to become a real challenge. Peter Charles had a good win yesterday on Murka’s Vindicat W.......hopefully the good fortune will continue today........    

From Sweden I fly back to Barbury Castle CIC3* and then drive out to Aachen CHIO.....not sure when I will next be able to tap the keyboard.....

(the Bunny Jumping course in Sweden)

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