FEI Joins Global Sports Federations Sounding Alarm Over 2016 Rio Olympic Preparations

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Princess Haya, president of the FEI.  File photo
Princess Haya, president of the FEI. File photo

April 9, 2014

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) joined the majority of Olympic sports organizations expressing “massive concerns” over preparations of both venues and operations for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games with the International Olympic Committee weighing calls for so-called “Plan B” alternatives for the global extravaganza just two years away.

The outcry from federations responsible for 18 of the 28 Olympic sports–they make the rules, provide the officials and run the Olympic competitions–came at meetings Tuesday and Wednesday with the IOC executive board in Belek, Turkey.

The situation in Rio and a reported laid back response to repeated alarms over construction of venues and preaparing for the operation of events by the Brazilian government was labeled by some observers at the meetings as a “crisis.”

The IOC initially appeared reluctant to consider “Plan B” options, saying that it was “too premarure” to discuss stripping the Olympics from Rio, the first South American city to be selected for the Games held once every four years.

But the complaints were so strong that IOC President Thomas Bach of Germany was quoted by Around the Rings, the leading Olympic Internet news site, as saying the executive board would discuss options.

FEI president Princess Haya said there were “massive concerns” at the Lausanne, Switzerland organization that governs the three Olympic horse sports of dressage, eventing and jumping.

The concerns, she said, were about timelines for venue construction and operational plans.

The FEI has insight into current Olympic issues–Tim Hadaway, who was Equestrian Competition Manager at the London Games in 2012, regarded as among the best ever, now runs the FEI’s Games and Championships Department.

Doubts by the sports federations about Rio’s ability to execute the globe’s largest sporting event have not been last minute.

Sports organizations have already taken measures unprecedented in Olympics to become directly involved in preparations to help overcome slow construction and tardy operational planning.

The Rio de Janeiro Olympic equestrian venue.
The Rio de Janeiro Olympic equestrian venue.

Christophe Dubi, deputy Olympic Games executive director, disclosed the IOC will create a task force of experts from construction and sport in an effort to overcome delays in projects.

“We have to have special measures in place and we have done it in the past. To get to this position was a constant battle.”

Other task forces would be formed to speed up preparations, that Dubi said would require “extremely tight monitoring to follow each and every milestone.”

Numerous sports–equestrian included–are to be in an area known as the Deodoro Zone, about an hour west of Rio.

The three equestrian sports of dressage, eventing and jumping were staged there at the 2007 Pan American Games, the second largest multidiscipline championships after the Olympics but without the spotlight that comes with the global Games.

The 2007 Pan Am equestran competitions were held inside the confines of a military base in Deodoro, the same locations to be used in 2016. The 2007 Pan Ams were memorable for some outstanding and emotional performances on the field of play.

However, large numbers of armed soldiers were present throughout the competitions to enforce rules dictated by the military that were sometimes spur-of-the-moment and also overtly supported displays of soccer-style nationalist fervor to cheer on Brazil competitors and jeer riders from other nations.