Brazil Federation Warns Rio Olympic Horse Events May Have to be Moved to Another Country

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The 2016 Olympic Games  equestrian center.
The 2016 Olympic Games equestrian center.

RIO DE JANEIRO, Oct. 8, 2015–The head of the Brazilian Equestrian Confederation has warned that equestrian competition at next year’s Olympic Games may be moved outside Brazil, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

The American news agency reported that Luiz Roberto Giugni at an event in São Pauo blasted the country’s Agriculture Ministry for delays in issuing documentation needed to allow horses brought into Brazil from Europe, the United States and Canada to leave the country.

If the ministry does not act before the end of October, the AP quoted the official, “we run the risk of not having the event in Brazil.”

Regulations for bringing horses to and from Brazil are strict. The country is still subject to diseases affecting horses, including glanders, a lethal bacterial infection recently diagnosed in several horses in Brazil.

The Olympic equestrian events of dressage, jumping and the dressage and jumping phases of eventing are scheduled to be staged at the Deodoro complex in the middle of South America’s largest military base an hour outside Rio.

Of the 200 horses–60 for dressage, 75 for jumping and 65 for eventing–all but 12 allocated to Brazil for a team in each discipline as the host, come from outside Brazil,

Most are from Europe and North America. Many South Americans qualifying for the Olympics are based in the United States and Western Europe.

Similar horse import and export problems were encountered during the Pan American Games in Rio at the same venue in 2007, made worse by heavy-handed restrictions on riders and grooms, spectators and media enforced by large numbers of soldiers.

The Rio Olympics have been plagued with serious construction delays in both sports venues and hotels.

The equestrian test event over the summer was generally given a passing grade by observers from foreign federations. Since then, the country has sustained a sharp decline in its economy and political instability with the president threatened with impeachment.

No international horses participated in the test event. Officials from foreign federations were briefed by the Rio organizers, the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), the horse transport organization and other major stakeholders.

Equestrian events have often not been near the center of Olympic activity–the 2012 Games were highly lauded as being an integral event within London. The 2008 equestrian events were held in Hong Kong about 1,200 miles (1,900km) from Beijing because of horse health issues though the organization was credited with staging one of the best-run horse competitions.