This weekend’s FEI Eventing Seminar brought forward some surprising news: just as smattering of months after the FEI’s confirmation that equestrian sport had been confirmed for the 2028 LA Olympics, a talk led by FEI Eventing Committee Chairman David O’Connor and FEI Eventing Director Catrin Norinder on Saturday, 20 January revealed that while showjumping and dressage are firmly in situ for those Games, eventing is on slightly shakier ground.
FEI President Ingar de Vos began the session with an announcement that eventing will only be confirmed for Los Angeles is a venue can be secured that can host all three phases in one venue – a departure from previous Games, including Tokyo, which required athletes and horses to travel to a satellite venue for cross-country, a set-up that drastically increases the financial outlay of hosting the sport. While this year’s Paris Olympics are contained within one venue – the capacious grounds of the Versailles Palace estate southwest of the city – it’s looking increasingly likely that LA’s eventing could be hosted at a pre-existing equestrian venue, thus reducing the logistical and financial investment required to develop terrain and course features suitable for this calibre of competition.
While this is a hurdle that the FEI feels confident in its ability to overcome – a confidence substantiated by pitches from California venues in the past months – their work isn’t likely to end there. Olympic viability is tracked, in no small part, by popularity, measured by broadcast viewing numbers and engagement – and the primary engager in eventing, consistently, is cross-country. The seminar went on to suggest format changes to highlight this: the first is a classic short-format schedule, though retaining the longer distances and times of the ‘championship’ level used at the Olympics (a roughly ten-minute course held at four-star dimensions and technicality). This would see dressage held on day one, team and individual showjumping rounds on day two, and a cross-country finale on day three. Another suggestion is something more of a departure from the norm: day one and two would feature dressage in the mornings and team showjumping in the afternoons, with cross-country and team medals on day three and an individual jumping finale on day four.
“The message of the IOC president was very clear: change, or be changed,” says de Vos.
This proposed change is a bid to increase the IOC’s ‘positivity’ about cross-country, which it sees as an exciting viewer draw – and while discussions are now ongoing, and inclusive of national federations who can submit format proposals until March 1, we’re looking at a fairly quick timeline for confirmation. O’Connor has suggested that eventing’s final confirmation is likely to come in the next couple of months, so that all equestrian venues can be announced in tandem, though the last call on format will come after the conclusion of the Paris Olympics, which ends in August.