Friday, 1 July 2011

Will's Blog is Back!

Welcome back..... the last time I was blogging was during the World Equestrian Games in 2010 and I will be updating you regularly throughout the Test Event and then weekly throughout the summer season and then through to the 2012 Games.

Since WEG 2010 we’ve been working very hard to finalise our London 2012 plans and especially to look at how we recreate what worked well at WEG and what we can learn from WEG ahead of London 2012.  This weekend sees the start of the Test Event, the Greenwich Park Eventing Invitational CIC2*.

So what is the Test Event?

A Test Event is most certainly not the finished product and anyone who goes to Greenwich must realise that what they will see is not to the same scale as what they will see in 2012, it is very much smaller and does not utilise the whole of Greenwich Park.

Test Events exist so that the Organising Committee, LOCOG, can test their venue and the various internal functional areas. There are over 80 functional areas within an Olympic/Paralympic Games Organising Committee, ranging from results management through to waste disposal, transport, accreditation, the list goes on. The first time these functional areas really get an opportunity to work together is at the Test Events, but not all areas will be tested at all Test Events.

So the Test Event is a vital milestone on the road to London 2012, but it is what it says on the can; it’s about testing everything rather than producing the finished product.

So how do we, within Equestrian Team GBR, utilise the Test Event?

Well, the first thing I would say is all credit to LOCOG, who have included ‘small’ demos of dressage, jumping and para-equestrian dressage, the actual Test Event being an eventing CIC competition. In the past Test Events have just been the eventing competitions.

For the Test Event in Hong Kong we were very keen to get as much info about how the horses would react to the journey and climate and so we focussed on selecting three different ‘sizes/weights’ of horses so we could collect data from a wide range of horses.  For London, we are not so focussed on climate (we are used to it being hot and sunny one day and cold and rainy the next) and travel, but we want to learn as much about the venue as we can, including the topography of the cross-country course. Therefore, we have selected three of our most experienced riders in William Fox-Pitt, Pippa Funnell and Piggy French and we are confident that they will give us really good feedback on the competition.

We also have British riders participating in the three aforementioned demos. I will of course go into far more detail about these as the Test Event unfolds over the next few days.

There is much written within sports about ‘home advantage’ and I would of course agree. However, there is ‘home disadvantage’ and we’ve been working very hard at how we can maximise the advantage and minimise the disadvantage. I’m not going to go into too much detail, but as you can imagine, the expectation from the press will be massive.  Also the expectation of people within the equestrian community to be able to ‘access all areas’ at these Olympic and Paralympic Games, is an expectation that in the main will not be fulfilled – there is a great deal of management of these expectations and others to be done over the coming months.

So, as I write this I’ve just arrived in Greenwich, my car is packed to the gunnels with kit for the Test Event but also for Falsterbo CSI5*, Barbury CIC3* and Aachen CHIO5*: the very smart Land Rover Discovery is filled to the roof and is, amongst other things, now doubling as my wardrobe!

I also have with me a new Tokyo Horseweigh Equine Weighbridge, which breaks down into three parts, which will be used at Aachen to gather information on competing horses. I also have a Waterboy (effectively a big tank with a pump and hose which we fill with cool water), which we used very effectively out at WEG. I learnt the other day their biggest market is gardeners in Europe, rather than equine enthusiasts, seeking to cool their horses.

The home Test Event seems to generate a monstrous amount of work and all in the World Class office and Nikki Franck-Steier have been working flat out to make sure everything’s prepared. Just to make sure we’re not bored, the World Class Programme team are also running a reception for some 400 guests during the Test Event, which will be attended by Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall (Patron of the BEF) and also a dinner with the American delegation to help them celebrate their Independence day, or as we like to call it, ‘the day we eventually got rid of you’.

We have organised some 130 room nights at three hotels and distributed 730 tickets, so that potential 2012 athletes, staff and owners can attend the Test Event.  On the subject of tickets, I know that many will be very disappointed that they could not get tickets to next week. The equestrian Test Event is being kept small and ticket sales and the management of large spectator numbers is not a functional area LOCOG is testing at Greenwich. There will be other Test Events where tickets will be on sale.

I know it’s been a long time since I last blogged and there have been so many exciting results that I’d love to tell you about but more of that to follow.

I need to start cracking on with Test Event preparations, which includes checking out the stabling, accreditation lists, hotel lists and of course that the various restaurants that we’ll be using are ready to roll out the red carpet. But most of all I need a large drink to recover from the journey down here, being stuck behind lorry drivers who insist on sitting in the outside lane on dual carriageways, trying to overtake lorries that are going at the same speed as them...............drives me mad.....more anger management training needed.       

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