Bigger Crowds for Equestrian Events than Most Olympic Sports

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The Olympic Flame being carried through Greenwich Saturday. Greewich is the site of Olympic equestrian events in London.

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

LONDON, July 22–The equestrian events of dressage, eventing and jumping will have more spectators than all but a handful of other sports at the Olympic Games opening in six days while the dressage Grand Pix musical freestyle will be the grand finale  at Greenwich Park.

Equestrian sports celebrating their 100th anniversary of Olympic participation were one of the first to sell out of all 26 sports in these Olympics.

The equestrian venue at Greenwich Park features competition and warmup arenas on giant plywood platforms raised on steel pneumatic pylons to avoid damaging plants or the ground of London’s oldest royal park dating back almost 600 years. The cost has already been put at £60 million (US$97 million), up from the initial estimate of £6 million.

The equestrian venue has been set up to handle 23,000 spectators, the largest number except the main Olympic Stadium which holds 80,000 people, various soccer stadiums around England and Wimbledon’s famed tennis club which seats 30,000.

Equestrian sports seating easily beats out the facilities for the headline sports of basketball (20,000) and swimming (17,500), for example, as well as cycling (6,000) and, in the heart of London, beach volleyball (15,000).

Although construction of parts of the equestrian venue are not expected to be completed by the opening competition six days from now due to rain much heavier than normal, it is not expected to interfere with the competition or what spectators see of the events.

Heavy security and fencing to block off views of construction within Greenwich Park have prevented determining the status of construction just days before the first horses move in.

However, what may have been a benefit of the failure of a private security company to hire and train enough guards for the Games is that the British military that moved in to take over most of the job are highly professional, unfailingly courteous with a sense of humor that has defused frustrations over lines at security checkpoints.

Olympic spirit spreading to store windows in Greenwich where equestrian events will be staged. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Equestrian sports open with eventing dressage on July 28-29, cross country over the 3.5 mile (5.7km) course on July 30 and jumping on July 31.

The dressage schedule:

Aug. 2-3 – Grand Prix team competition;

Aug. 7 – Olympic Grand Prix Special team dressage final, and

Aug. 9 – Individual Grand Prix Freestyle.

For jumping, team qualifying and competitions are Aug. 4-6 with the individual final Aug. 8.

A total of 200 riders–76 women, 124 men–from 40 nations are taking part in equestrian events.

For the first time, dressage with 23 nations and a total of 50 riders has overtaken eventing as the second largest equestrian discipline at an Olympics. Jumping is the largest discipline with 26 nations represented.

Seven nations–Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the USA–will have teams in all three Olympic equestrian disciplines. Germany, the Netherlands, the USA and host nation Great Britain have qualified the maximum number of 13 riders.

In dressage, five nations are represented by a team and one individual: Denmark, Great Britain, Germany, Netherlands and USA.

The other teams making up a total of 10 teams in dressage are Australia, Canada, Spain, Poland and Sweden.

The 13 nations represented by individuals only are Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Finland, France, Ireland, Italty, Japan, Morocco, Norway, New Zealand, Portugal and Ukraine.