Tuesday, 26 October 2010

London 2012: Cross Country Course - The Reformers' Tree

I just love big trees, there's something majestic about a living thing that has been around for centuries, sometimes millennia. Here's one of my favourite old trees that I pass everyday, and before you start thinking "he's off his trolley and become a tree hugging hippie", it this tree that has proved, in part, the inspiration for this next fence, due to the 'boxed in' root base it has.

One of the great things about using Hyde Park as the venue is there is just so much history surrounding this patch of ground from which to draw inspiration. Amongst other things, Britain is famous for it's democratic style of government, and freedom of speech. Hyde Park is actually where much of this was born, illustrated so well by Speakers' Corner and The Reformers' Tree.

Fence 18 is sited where this famous tree once stood, the meeting point for many demonstrations and marches. The tree itself was burnt down in 1866 by people campaigning for the right to vote after they were banned from holding a meeting in the park. The stump of the tree continued to serve as the meeting point for protests, rallies and all manner of gatherings for years to come.  Let's take a look at the fence:

Thursday, 21 October 2010

London 2012: Cross Country Course - Hyde Park Course Map

Hyde Park | The London Alternative
If you've been following my posts, you'll know that Greenwich Park isn't my preferred location for holding the London 2012 Olympic 3 Day Event. Whilst I believe Windsor Great Park is the most suitable location, I really like the idea of holding the event in the centre of London, and Hyde Park I think provides a very popular location, it's a real "peoples' park", where numerous outdoor events are held each year, from demonstrations to 'Proms In The Park'. In case you are interested in the history of the park, rather than regurgitate anything, here's the park's wikipedia entry.  I have some fond memories of walking through the park from Chelsea to Mayfair on my way to work some years ago, during the summer months and watching the cavalry horses out on exercise.

It's a very interesting challenge for the cross country course designer. As the "Volunteer Course Designer" let me walk you through my cross country course. Whilst I haven't finished all of the fences, the majority of significant fences are now fleshed out and the track is pretty much fixed. I am still in two minds as to where to put the main area, over by Park Lane out of the way or between Fences 8 & 9. If it goes over by fence 8 I can foresee some great hospitality opportunities, with private boxes that over look fence 8 and few others, plus the arena.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

London 2012: Alternative Venues For Eventing

Greenwich Park
First let me just reiterate that my reservations over Greenwich as the venue for the Olympic 3-day-event venue stem from the size, location and status of the Park, and it's ability to support the size of audience that this event is capable of attracting in this country.(see earlier post) I'm sure the venue can host a three day event, but probably not a championship 4 star one.

With this in mind I wanted to briefly outline other, more suitable, venues. When suggesting these venues I am ignoring any potential opposition or other reasons why they couldn't be used, making suggestions purely based on a desire to make the event as good as, if not better than, our other 4 star 3 day events.

Monday, 18 October 2010

London 2012: Cross Country Course - The Airport

London has two of the busiest airports in the world, Heathrow & Gatwick. Heathrow apparently handles more international travellers than any other airport, you only have to drive down the M4 motorway, glance up and you will see at least one aircraft coming in any another leaving.

Gatwick claims to have the busiest single runway in the world, and that's not hard to believe since many of the budget airlines hop over to Europe from here. My airport themed fence is pretty straight forward really, a 2 part fence complex with minimum difficulty.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

London 2012: Cross Country Course - The Maze

Hampton Court Maze
Just in case you thought we weren't going to see a more tradition hedge, here's one of the most famous hedges of all. The UK and in particular, London, is a huge draw for tourism, the vast majority of which revolves around the British Monarchy. Probably the most famous of the monarchs is Henry VIII who's favourite haunt was Hampton Court Palace in West London, home to probably the most famous maze "in the world". So with this in mind and taking in to consideration mazes are designed to be confusing, here's the next next installment in my 'Volunteer Course Design Portfolio'.

Friday, 15 October 2010

London 2012: Cross Country Course - Busy On The Underground

One of the fastest ways to get around London, is obviously 'the tube', it's also one of the busiest, so I could think of no better way to portrait this than to use an underground train (which often appear above ground) as a 'let up' fence that allows the rider to gallop on their way around the course, and provides spectators with the perfect method of getting across the course without having to wait for a horse to go by.

London 2012: Eventing - The Greenwich Venue

Greenwich Park | London 2012 3-Day-Event Site
We're less than 2 years away from The London Olympics and ever since the announcement of the venue for equestrian disciplines would be Greenwich Park, the organisers have come under intense criticism, and gone all out on a charm offensive in their attempt to woo the general public, press, eventing fraternity, and local residents.

The Greenwich site has become controversial for a number of reasons primarily because it is a world heritage site, and a local residents committee has long been campaigning for the equestrian events to be moved elsewhere, gathering over 12,000 signatures by all accounts. You can see the logic behind holding the event here, in as much as it is undulating parkland (albeit more formal parkland), and it is close to the rest of the olympics so the desire of 'keeping all the athletes together in an athlete's village' can be met.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

London 2012: Cross Country Course - The Olympic Cascade

As this is the Olympics and I'm a volunteer, I have no budgetary restraints, and this fence will require a fair bit of ground work but will provide a legacy feature for the park post games. The majority of water complexes used on 3 day event courses tend to be still ponds or lakes, and most jumping elements are reworked themes, with slight variations. One of the interesting uses of water I have seen, was at the Punchestown 2003 Europeans, where aqueducts were used, sadly only for decoration, the other water fences were quite spectacular as well and did cause one or two problems.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

London 2012: Cross Country Course - London Bridge Is Falling Down

London Bridge | Arizona
London, like most European cities, is built on a major river estuary, and therefore has plenty of bridges. One of the most famous of these bridges is London Bridge, and Yes, this time I do mean the one we sold to the Americans for their desert retreat, and it's predecessor, immortalised in the nursery rhyme. Anyone who knows London will have heard "London Bridge is falling down, falling down...." .

The concept of the broken/unfinished bridge is not new, and I have to say, is one of my favourites to jump, as they can be a bit "jump into mid air" if constructed properly, providing a real "yippee" moment. A first glance of my diagram and you're probably thinking "that's pretty straightforward", well yes and no.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

London 2012: Cross Country Course - The Apiary Fences

Bees | Scary Stuff
Your first thought is probably "What the hell have Bee Hives got to do with London or a cross country course"? Well, let me explain. London has thousand upon thousand beekeepers, and produces some of the best honey in the country, the other good place for honey production being, the Highlands of Scotland. The success of bee keeping in London is down to the huge variety of flowers, and lack of pesticides.

Robin Pemberton-Jones, a former governor of the Bank of England, kept hives on top of the Bank, and many of the other best know London landmarks host bee hives too. OK, enough of the reasoning, let's take a look at the fence complex.

Monday, 11 October 2010

London 2012: Making It "As Good As It Gets"

NZB Land Vision | London 2012 Aim
With the eventing season drawing to a close, and the curtains firmly drawn on the World Equestrian Games stage, the next 'really big' competition to look forward is the London 2012 Olympics, so I thought I'd start a series of posts about the event. In particular I wanted to talk about the cross country course and the venue. So first of all, the cross country course.

Now, we're constantly reminded that this is a sport built on the foundations of the volunteer workforce, after all our big 3-Day Events just wouldn't run without the thousands of volunteers who sacrifice their time to man everything from the car parks to the media centre. With this in mind I have decided to volunteer to design the cross country course - what a good samaritan I am, and Sue Benson (the official course designer) is of course welcome to have some input, and borrow my ideas.

Every cross country course needs a theme, and there are of course two obvious themes; London itself and GBR - spiritual home of the 3 day event, so these will be my inspiration for my London 2012 Olympic Course. To begin with I will share fence, and fence combination ideas, and then once I've discussed the venue in more detail I'll start to layout the course a little more. The reason for this will become apparent as I reveal more about the venue.

Friday, 8 October 2010

WEG 2010: Eventing - The "coulda, woulda, shoulda's"

Team GBR | World Class
I have finally calmed down having watched the highlights again (more than once). Did I mention WE WON the World Equestrian Games! (and William Fox-Pitt took home a Silver Medal too). I have to admit, after the dressage, I was a little concerned that Team GBR would be left fighting tooth and nail to get a Bronze by the end of Sunday, but this WEG really have proved to be a well balanced 3 day event with just the right amount of influence between the phases, although it does prove the dressage is still the phase separating the best from the very best. Possibly not the most ideal situation given it's the most subjective phase. I really liked the cross country course, despite the very Burghley-Badminton feel, and the show jumping produced probably the biggest stadium audience the sport has seen for sometime. All in all a cracking competition......

Sunday, 3 October 2010

WEG 2010: Eventing - WE WON

Well Done William et al
Yes, Britain Wins Gold by jumping clear showjumping. There really is little more to say about all of this except:

The mistakes and bad luck that befell the Germans & Australians, allowed two other nations a great shot at medals, and I can't think of two better teams, Canada & New Zealand. Well deserved medal wins.

No one could begrudge Michael Jung his individual gold. He was foot perfect from start to finish, and a joy to watch.

I hope those that ran in to bad luck or injury get their day in the limelight.

Let the celebrations begin, then on to London 2012!

More on all this soon.....when I calm down.....

WEG 2010: Eventing - Cross Country: Best Fun With Your Clothes On

Hamish & Dave were spared a streak
Today's action from the World Equestrian Games really was one of the best cross country days I've ever watched, and we have the Germans to thank for what promises to be a breath taking finish tomorrow. The atmosphere here at home was pretty electric too, with so much 'edge of your seat' action, and we're all still buzzing, although one or two here recon they should have been riding for one or two of the teams instead!

Firstly, I really feel for the Germans. Simone Deitermann was going so well on her lovely horse, and then towards the end of the course you could see the horse started to tire, and I just felt she didn't respond to that, letting him just bowl straight into the bottom of the very last fence, on his forehand. Nobody could have foreseen the issues Andreas Dibowski had at the hollow, this horse has been round Badminton, Pau & Luhmuhlen finishing in the top 3, so spooking at a coffin was never on anyone's list of predictions, and Dirk Schrade just completely mis judged that second to last fence. I'm sure there'll be lots of reports about how the Germans became complacent, and let gold slip through their fingers, but I think they had a little hard luck too. The shake up in the leaderboard today has demonstrated how the format of our sport leads you to thinking if you're not in the lead after dressage, you don't win the event, someone else loses it.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

WEG 2010: Eventing - Cross Country Time

German Coach, Chris Bartle | Walking The Lines
Day 2 of eventing dressage at the World Equestrian Games is over, a few surprises in the scores, and I honestly didn't think so many would score well into the 30s, but not really that surprised at those in the top 5, except perhaps the number two, just a little disappointed the British didn't get a little higher up. The team competition though is all about a good solid  allround performance, which the Brits have achieved and are currently in 2nd going into the cross country, but the Germans have a good lead on us, and the Swedes and Australians are only a few points behind (see team scores).

Karin Dockers is one of the best riders we've had in Europe in recent years, and I have to say I completely over looked her as I hadn't bothered looking up this horse's form, but she's currently lying in fourth on 38.8, a decent improvement in dressage over the last year.

Friday, 1 October 2010

WEG 2010: Eventing | Watch Out Axe Wielding Maidens on Cross Country

Ladies & Axes | No!
My first reaction on seeing this video (see below) was to tweet @hamishanddave and warn them! At first glance, it seems US Eventing's adopted fashionista, Courtney Young, along with two assistants who magically appear like something out of Charmed had all gone bananas, taking an axe to set of cross country boots. Then you realise this is an 'infomercial' independent 3D3Ws spoof stress test of ECOGOLD's cross country boots, which they claim are stronger than an axe. Quite why they chose an axe to demonstrate strength I'm not quite sure? If anything even remsembling an axe were ever to be encountered on a cross country course I'm sure the course builder would have Eventing Safety John after them like a shot......

WEG 2010: Eventing - Dressage Day 1 | I Told You Ze Germans Were Coming

Simone Deitermann
The German dressage supremos exited the World Equestrian Games arena with the heating left turned right up today in the first day of the eventing competition, leaving a number of 4* winners in their wake. Simone Deitermann, the 28 year-old accountant, leads the dressage on 36.0 a full five points clear of her countryman, Ingrid Klimke (41.3), and the multi-talented William Fox-Pitt in 3rd (42.0).

You rarely get to see the young riders from other nations, and I remember seeing Simone go round her first Badminton earlier this year and thinking wow, this lady can really ride, but although she has lead the dressage before in some hotly contested big events, I have to say, I really didn't expect to see her so far ahead.

Another pleasant surprise was Mark Todd, who managed to get a score into the late forties, not an easy task with this horse. He's must has squeezed every last ounce out of Grass Valley to get that score. This might just put him in contention for some personal honours.