From ski slopes to river rapids to cross country courses, whenever a relatively untested venue is named as the site of an international sporting event on the scale of the Olympics, there are going to be question marks up in the air. What’s it going to look like? Can they pull it off?
Rio de Janeiro may not be known as a hotbed of equestrian sport but for 13 days in 2016, the world’s best horses and riders will be gathered there to fight for medals on the world’s most visible sporting stage. In exactly one year from today the 2016 Olympic Games will be underway and with it the first Olympic equestrian competition ever held in South America.
The Olympic test event for eventing, the Aquece Rio (“Warm Up Rio”) International Horse Trials, is taking place this week at the Olympic Equestrian Centre in Deodoro. And, because we’re dying of curiosity, Eventing Nation is live on the scene to check it out.
Throughout the week we’ll be bringing you photos, interviews, event coverage and commentary as we catch a first glimpse of the site. Here’s a rundown of what’s going on.
What it is
This weekend’s event is a CIC2* limited to Brazilian horse/rider combinations. In addition to feeling out the “field of play,” the goal is to test a wide range of logistical and technological concerns: results, scoring, timing, stabling operations, sanitary and biosecurity procedures, spectator flow and management, accreditation and media operations. Both human and equine anti-doping processes will also be conducted.
“As equestrian is one of the first major test events for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, it will play an important role in establishing the Organizing Committee’s systems and processes,” FEI Secretary General Sabrina Zeender explained last month. “The test event is a vital stage in the preparations to assess operational readiness, and a huge amount that needs to be tested will be tested.”
A few components remain to be ironed out, including accommodations for athletes, grooms and National Olympic Committees, and arrival/departure procedures for the horses since there will only be national horses at the event, but the FEI expresses confidence that everyone is in good hands. Guess we’ll find out!
Where it is
The Olympic Equestrian Centre is one of nine venues in Deodoro, a neighborhood in the west of Rio that will play host to the second largest concentration of competition venues during the Games. Since hosting the 2007 Pan American Games the grounds have been relatively quiet, providing cavalry unit stabling for the surrounding military base and hosting a few competitions here and there.
Everyone is, of course, especially interested in seeing the Pierre Michelet-designed cross country course. In recent years Olympic cross country courses have seemed almost like sculpture gardens showcasing the host nation’s culture and history — remember London in 2012? — and we can’t wait to see what Rio has to offer, especially if the photos course builder extraordinaire Tyson Rementer has been posting to social media are any indication.
Who will be there?
Representatives from 16 national federations, including athletes and officials, are traveling to the Olympic Equestrian Centre in Deodoro to take part in the Observers Programme, which runs concurrently with the test event.
Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Great Britain, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, Sweden and the United States of America are all sending delegations to the test event. Canadian coach Clayton Fredericks will attend the Test Event for Canada, and the U.S. is sending a delegation of five. Marilyn Payne, president of the ground jury for Rio, will be present as well.
All five technical delegates will be present at the Test Event: Tim Randle (veterinary), Jacques Van Daele (dressage), Alec Lochore (eventing), Santiago Varela (show jumping) and Amanda Bond (para-equestrian dressage); along with John McEwen, chair of the FEI Veterinary Committee; and the FEI sports directors of the three Olympic disciplines: John Roche (show jumping), Trond Asmyr (dressage) and Catrin Norinder (eventing).
The test event will also be attended by 12 international technical officials and a large team of national technical officials, with the second group including FEI stewards, dressage scribes, judging assistants and eventing cross country officials.
And, of course, one very well-known chinchilla is also making the trip. Keep it locked on EN as we take you behind the scenes at the Olympic Test Event in Rio!