Friday, 9 August 2013

The Olympics - A universal celebration

Last weekend Britain staged the Anniversary Games, just one year after we hosted, what is pretty much, the biggest sporting event in the entire world: the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

I will talk about the Paralympic Games in a separate post, but for now I'm going to relive my experiences of the Olympic Games because I was lucky enough to attend one of the events! I managed to purchase five tickets for myself and my family to visit Greenwich Park to watch the cross-country (one of the Equestrian events).

It was so exciting to go and see so many famous horse riders all in one place and the atmosphere was electric with excitement. I even came within walking distance of one of the greatest names of all time: Mary King who has represented Great Britain at six Olympics between 1992 to 2002. Here I am just inside the venue with my dad and sisters!

There are three different challenges riders must face over a four day period within the equestrian eventing (dressage, cross-country and show jumping) and all test a different aspect of horsemanship. On the third day, riders must contend with a tough cross-country course, which is about 6km (3.7 miles) long. Equestrian is the only sport at the Olympics where men and women compete against each other.

Although this doesn't sound like much to some, during the cross-country course riders can face as many as 45 obstacles along the way and against the relentless ticking of a clock. The jumps aren't easy either, they are often pretty high and can be quite wide. As well as this, there are numerous distractions, so both horse and rider must work as one to get round the course in one piece.

The jump on the left was called the "chess table", which is a straight-forward jump, but at the maximum height and near the maximum spread it could be, it still demanded respect. The jump to the right was known as the "royal herb garden". This was the biggest and widest fence of the cross-country ends on a significant turn of the course.

The Royal Greenwich Borough jump also gave many riders plenty to think about. From the top of the initial step, it was a long way down and then the next jumps came up very quickly, leaving no room for deviation. All riders who walk the course before going round ensured they counted the number of strides between each obstacle and even tested out some of the jumps themselves!

When going around the cross-country course, the horses' legs are covered with grease to help protect them. It also helps them to slide over a fence if they get too close.

During the course, each rider is given penalty points for any time penalties and/or jumping errors and these are added to any penalties awarded during the dressage test to give a total score. The 3-day event then ends with show jumping where riders are again awarded penalty points dependent on any errors or time penalties. The top 25 riders with the least of these points then jump a final round and any points are again added on to their score to determine the individual result.

Here are some of my photo highlights:

Did you know?

  • While the jumps have become less solid over the years, before they used to be almost immobile, which did cause some riders and horses to become injured. Riders also now where a inflatable body protector, which inflates if they hit the ground. This has saved many from quite serious injury.
  • This discipline returned to the Stockholm Games in 1912, but until the 1948 Games, only people from the military could compete in the equestrian. When this ended in 1951, just one year later both civilian men and women competed. 

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