Belgian-American Group to Provide Footing for London Olympic Competition Arena

10 years ago StraightArrow Comments Off on Belgian-American Group to Provide Footing for London Olympic Competition Arena


The 2012 Olympics equestrian stadium during last summer’s Olympic test event with the London skyline backdrop. © Ken Braddick/


A Belgian-American group is being brought in to provide London Olympic equestrian arena footing of a mix of sand, felt and fiber identical to competition arenas around the world including Florida’s mammoth Palm Beach complex and the 2008 Beijing Games.

Bart Poels of Belgium and Brett Raflowitz of Equestrian Services International of Palm City, Florida–partners in arena ventures around the world–have joined with the British company, Andrews Bowen Ltd., that was originally awarded the contract to provide the Olympic riding surface.

The waxed sand footing installed initially by Andrews Bowen that also provides the arena surface for Britain’s Horse of the Year Show, was determined after months of testing not to be suitable for the unique steel and plywood platform on which the horse competitions will be held at Greenwich Park within sight of the heart of London.

Andrews Bowen brought in Bart Poels and Brett Raflowitz to make the significant change in the riding surface that the London organizers described as the single most critical issue of equestrian competition.

Olympic dressage, eventing and jumping competitions and the equestrian portion of the pentathlon will be held July 27-Aug. 12, and the Paralympic equestrian Aug. 30-Sept. 4.

After three test events–including a CIC2* Greenwich Park Eventing Invitational as well as dressage and jumping competitions last summer–the footing drew sharp criticism. A fourth test event was staged late in December in which the sand mix from Bart Poels was used and found to have a clear advantage, and won endorsements from International Equestran Federation officials.

The sand and fiber surface to be installed is identical to the footing used at the highly praised Olympic equestrian events in Hong Kong in 2008 and is used throughout the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center with its 12 jumper arenas and five new rings being installed at the center’s dressage venue now under construction.

Brett Raflowitz (left) and Bart Poels. © 2011 Ken Braddick/

The footing composition developed by Bart Poels is used in numerous show grounds throughout Europe, the Americas and the Middle East in both indoor and outdoor venues, including last week’s World Cup qualifiers in dressage. jumping and driving at Mechelen, Belgium.

The London footing problems have centered around the competition arena on a unique plywood platform on a steel and aluminum frame of milk-crate sized blocks held up by 2,100 pylons to meet a requirement for no change to Greenwich Park. The wooden platform has also caused vibration problems.

The warmup arena is also built on a platform. Water is drained into specially installed tanks.

Greenwich Park has a spectacular view from the stands that will accommodate 23,000 spectators, of both the London city skyline and the historic Royal Observatory that keeps Greenwich Mean Time from which all time zones are determined.


Some of the 2,100 supports for the Olympic equestrian competition arena.

The wax coated footing was initially thought to be preferable because water is limited at the site. The wax footing is widely used in race tracks and competition venues around the world, including numerous Thoroughbred courses in North America.

Footing experts from ESI in the U.S. and Bart Poels in Belgium will work with Andrews Bowen to mix and install the new footing several weeks before the start of competition.

Controversy has surrounded the selection of the 180-acre (74 Ha) historic Greenwich Park, a Royal Park designated a World Heritage site, which is close to downtown London and riders will live in the Olympic village, not always the case as equestrian competitions are frequently distant from the main stadiums. At the 2008 Games in Beijing, horse events were 1,220 miles (1,963 km) away in Hong Kong.

The initial estimate of £6 million (US$9.35 million) for constructing the Greenwich Park equestrian venue has, according to British press reports, exploded to around £60 million (US$93.5 million). As the site has to be restored to its original condition there is no direct “legacy” benefit of the equestrian facilities to London.