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.

Hyde Park:
Hyde Park | The Best Compromise Venue
Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens together are 625 acres, that's 3 times the size of Greenwich. It has 2 large tracks of water and plenty of suitable going for the 3 day event. Being slap bang in the centre of London it is conveniently located to the Olympic Village and is surrounded by half a dozen underground stations, and most central london bus routes pass along one of Hyde Parks boundaries. The triathon and an open water swimming event are apparently being held here. The park is also used for riding on a daily basis and has plenty of tracks for the purpose. Outdoor Music events have been successfully held here with crowds approaching 200,000.

I'm sure the main reason this park has been dismissed as a venue is terrain [Hyde Park is relatively flat], but I really don't buy that. Yes, ideally a few undulations help a course designer make the optimum time as influential as possible, but I think this is a perfect opportunity and challenge to design a course that is truly challenging based on what you put before horse and rider, not how fit the horse is.

For me this is THE "London" venue, it has proven crowd capacity, transport, access etc. It has suitable turf, it's large enough to run a full 11min 15sec 4 star track, and it's a lot more "friendly" to new adaptation than Greenwich is with it's World Heritage Status. I think this would be a very popular venue.

Windsor Great Park:
Windsor Great Park | The Perfect Venue
Home of Windsor Castle, and host to numerous events that prove this venue is the most ideal place for the Olympic 3 day event. It is of course just outside London, but it's only 23 miles, and serviced with excellent transport links. Everything that can be done with any other venue can be done here, and with better terrain, better back drops etc. This park land is home to the Royal Windsor Horse Show, and has played host to Windsor International Horse Trials, All The Queen's Horses, and numerous others over the years. I really don't buy this "commitment to a compact Olympics", it just leads to unnecessary compromises. Interestingly, in similar vein,  the BEF have stated they would only be interested in hosting the 2018 WEG if the FEI allowed the use of multiple venues, following the lessons learnt from the 2010 WEG in Kentucky.

In summary, Windsor Great Park would be the perfect venue, and Hyde Park I think is the best compromise. Other locations that might just as easily work:

Hampstead Heath
Wimbledon Common
Hampton Court/ Richmond Park
Badminton Deer Park
Blenheim Palace

The Greenwich Park Brochure I think adequately highlights the compromises being made. For the purposes of my 'Volunteer Course Designer Project' I will be setting the course in Hyde Park. My reasons for this will become clear in another post shortly.

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