Editor’s note: We announced the 6 Finalists in the 6th annual EN Blogger Contest on Friday, and now it's time for round 2! For this phase, we asked the ambitious crew to answer the following question: "As eventing faces the very real possibility of making further changes to the sport's format to align with the Olympic 2020 Agenda, many have questioned whether the sport should remain in the Olympics at all. In your opinion, what is the value of the Olympic stage in eventing?" Thanks as always for reading, and please leave feedback in the comments section.
Citius, Altius, Fortius. The Olympic motto translates as ‘faster,higher,stronger’,and it perfectly encompasses the efforts and ambitions of every athlete that has ever taken part at any Olympic Games. Competing at the Olympics is the single greatest sporting honour that any athlete can achieve,and it is often the end result of a lifetime of training,planning,dreaming and incredible sacrifice. The sport of eventing at the Olympics currently faces a difficult and turbulent time,with great change required of it if the sport is to remain on the Olympic schedule.
Mr Kit McConnell,Sports Director at the International Olympic Committee,recently presented the Olympic agenda for 2020 and the strategic roadmap of the Olympic movement. He listed sought after requirements from participating sports in the Olympic programme which included media,Internet and televisual popularity,an ability to increase the popularity of the Olympic Games and a capacity to maximise engagement of youth. Whilst eventing is a very popular sport within the equestrian world,it remains either mostly unknown or as a thing of mystery to most civilians. It is a sport steeped in tradition,and it is such a difficult sport to competently master that most of its participants on the world stage are in their thirties,forties and fifties.
To dramatically alter the Olympic format of the sport of eventing in an attempt to modernise it for the world at large and to fill the perceived Olympic ideal,will throw up many significant issues,dangers and difficulties. As such,eventing finds itself at an Olympic impasse. Younger,more ‘sexy’ sports such as skate boarding,surfing and rock climbing carry broader appeal and far smaller infrastructural and financial requirements than the sport of eventing does.
They are easy to televise,require far less man power to facilitate and the participants mostly occupy a far younger age bracket. These sports are waiting in the wings for their impending Olympic opportunities. Eventing at the Olympics beyond 2020 is beginning to look more and more doubtful,yet the irony exists that we simply MUST remain as an Olympic sport to have any chance or opportunity to step into line with the sought after requirements of the IOC.
So what is the value of the Olympic stage for the sport of eventing? An Olympic Games gives eventing its quadrennial opportunity to participate on a truly global platform amongst other elite sports and athletes,and showcase itself to the world at large. Horses and riders selected to compete at an Olympics are generally fulfilling a lifetime’s ambition by simply being there,and they are afforded much greater and more far reaching exposure as international athletes on a whole world stage. At the London Olympics, equestrianism saw a huge surge in popularity for spectator and participator alike. Many people worldwide were seeing dressage,showjumping and eventing for the first time.
Seeing their fellow countrymen participating-and in some cases,winning medals-captured the hearts and imaginations of many,and people with no previous interest in equestrianism were now avidly watching all things horse from London. No other eventing championship or 4* event can offer even near-comparable exposure for the sport,the horse or the rider. The potential to build on this exposure,to attract new participants,draw in a wider and more diverse audience and to open up sponsorship opportunities for both the sport and its participants is never greater than at an Olympic Games.
In order to qualify for an Olympic Games,individuals and teams must follow a specific set of guidelines and minimum eligibility requirements. These are achieved by competing both nationally and internationally,and at world and European championship events. For professional riders with horses coming of age during an Olympic cycle-and with an eye on achieving Olympic team selection-international competition is not only their ‘day job’. It is also the main platform on which their Olympic intention is built and shaped.
Whilst participating at an Olympic Games is the dream of many and the reality of few,it is a key motivator for very many riders. Those just getting started in the sport share the same Olympic dream as those competing for many decades. That dream provides purpose,plans,goals and the wherewithal to keep trying no matter what comes your way, no matter if you are man or woman,no matter where you come from or how you got to here. It is powerful and all encompassing,and every four years you get a timely Olympic-sized reminder of why you participate-in any capacity-in the sport of eventing.
Olympic ambition filters into every tiny crevice,nook and cranny in the sport of eventing. To find a horse to produce that has the capabilities of competing at the highest level means that a breeder with an Olympic dream must have played his part in creating that animal to begin with. Farriers and vets must play their part in keeping this animal healthy and sound. A rider with Olympic capabilities must come to meet with this horse at just the right time. It all starts with a dream,but the value of an Olympic stage for the sport of eventing is far reaching and all encompassing. It provides direction and opportunity from grass roots level all the way up to the greatest show on earth. It cannot be underestimated,and it must not be lost.
I am a 35 year old young horse producer based in Ireland. Whilst I currently compete predominantly in showjumping,eventing remains my true passion. With my husband Niall and our young son Charlie,we farm a suckler cattle herd and run a haulage business. I write for two websites,organise fundraisers and also run training clinics with international event riders. Life is busy but it’s great.