Thursday, 12 February 2009

Q: Can Greenwich be the greatest show on Earth?

A: I'm a little skeptical....

As the snow melts and we're all busy getting horses fit and laying down plans for the 2009 season, the 2012 PR machine is warming up.

Don't get me wrong I'm not saying running the Olympic 3-Day at Greenwich isn't feasible, I'm just not convinced it's the best one we could run.

Hong Kong I don't think could be classed as a resounding success, it was more like a half way house between express eventing and a decent 3 star.

Squeezing these 3 & 4 star events into small venues looses much of what makes these events the greatest - wide open spaces and big galloping tracks. What we're left with is little more than a showjumping speed class over solid fences. 

The Greenwich Park site sits on 180 or so acres (less than 1 square km), a tight space even without the 25 odd acres of shopping you usually find at other events. Now deduct a 23,000 seater stadium (that's nearly twice as many seats as Badminton), and 200 stables, then parking for ancillary vehicles, temp buildings, etc, etc. 

One word springs to mind: compromise.

Now for the IOC. The modern games have evolved constantly over the last 80 years with more "sports" being added every olympiad. This inevitably leads to other issues, like staging such a circus becomes more problematic in a modern city with the pressures on space that in itself creates. 

My point: As the games stand today it is mission impossible to host such a diverse range of events within the city walls (of any major city), so it's inevitable that events will need to creep into the countryside. So I don't get this whole "keep everything together" strategy. 

Now back to Greenwich. On the surface it does have good public transport links with a number of railway stations and major roads in the immediate vicinity.  But I can't help but think the audience for this event would prefer to drive. 

I sympathise with the local pressure group, particularly as this is a world heritage site, something I don't think should ever be sacrificed for such an event, remember this not parkland like Blenheim, it's a formal city park). Again this will lead to compromise. 

Top 5 Reason why it will be good but not great at Greenwich:

  1. 65% of Fences will be portable
  2. 80% of the audience will spend more than twice as much getting to the event than on admission
  3. It won't be a large galloping track (more an oversized pre-novice)
  4. There are better alternatives
  5. It requires too many compromises due to size & UNESCO status
The H&H came up with 5 reasons why they made a 180 degree turn and now support Greenwich as "the" venue, but these are woefully idealistic reasons. But then its hardly fleet street journalism is it?

For what's it's worth Windsor Great Park would be my choice of venue.

This won't stop me from going to the event at Greenwich, after all this is the only chance any of us will have of seeing the Olympics on home turf. That in itself is good enough for me. 


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