[Telegraph] Given all the criticism about limited space, expense, absence of legacy, damage and lock-out of local users, Greenwich Park’s most redeeming feature could also be its most unexpected: the ability to run an Olympic cross-country when other major venues have sunk under mud.
Gatcombe Park usually welcomes unseasonal rain to take the sting out of its quick-drying parkland but even this has fallen victim to waterlogging.
It is, though, hard to find a senior equestrian who thinks the Olympic competition will suffer the same fate. Though not involved with 2012, Mike Etherington-Smith, course designer at Sydney 2000 and typhoon-prone Hong Kong 2008 said: “It’s still three weeks away. There are a lot of experts down there with enough experience of the sections of the park that get wet to have dealt with it already.”
Seventy days’ worth of fixtures have been rained-off since March. It has cost national governing body British Eventing (BE) £750,000 in rider-entry abandonment fees; it may now extend the national season to November to catch up. There are huge losses for small events that operate on a shoestring anyway and some retailers look for half their annual turnover at headline fixtures. The British eventing team might have looked slightly different if Badminton had run and given a prodigy the opportunity to impress.
But Greenwich is not like any other horse trial, and that is why its sporting programme should survive. There are plenty of tarmac and hardcore tracks to move spectators about, no horseboxes or spectator cars to be towed in and out, no pedestrian-heavy shopping villages, and the park has naturally good drainage. A positive Jeremy Edwards, Locog’s equestrian venue manager, says this gives Greenwich huge advantages over the UK’s annual “pop-up” trials. One of his media room colleagues added with equal optimism: “If any site can take a battering, it is us.”
Edwards was venue manager at Sydney 2000, a permanent build. Greenwich has presented different challenges but he says he is “happy with progress”.
He said: “I have seen no…..
by Pippa Cuckson – the Telegraph’s equestrian correspondent
July 11th, 2012