Today has not been the busiest day of my Chef de Mission career but it has been one of steps forward and taking stock. We had a green light to access the Dressage Venue (the D’Ornano Stadium) today. The D’Ornano is a soccer stadium that the WEG Organising Committee have commandeered. This is not the first time that a soccer stadium has been rescued from Kiss Ball and allowed to host the glorious sport of Equestrian. In Herning (Denmark) last year it was proven that such a stadium could work for a major championships (Europeans in 2013) and the WEG have taken the idea to new levels.
And yes, it is that time of the year. I have finally worked out why those that can, head to the grouse moors on the 12th August. Start of grouse season = start of soccer season = head to grouse moor = wonderfully wild & deserted countryside = out of range of modern communication devices = NO damn updates on blinking soccer matches on every radio and TV channel by a range of self-appointed experts. We have such a plethora of sporting excellence in the UK, backed by National Lottery & Exchequer funding; it is such a shame that the airways of our sporting radio channels are so dominated by soccer. Rant over.
Sarah and Debbie spent the morning setting up the Dressage stables: sweat and no tears resulted in Team GBR / UK Lottery funding bunting crisscrossing the aisle, VERY smart Team GBR stable drapes decorating the stable walls and shavings deployed in neat Royal Artillery (for sure not Cavalry) esque rows ready to welcome the arrival of the equine stars. A job well done!
As I type our first Dressage horse and our Para-Equestrian Dressage team (the Paras) are setting off from their home bases in GBR. The Paras will have gathered at Mark Perry’s estate near Dartford and under his watchful eye will be loading feed, forage, trunks of equipment and a range of motorised buggies in to two trailers that will either be attached to his 9 horse lorry or a Land Rover piloted by Fakenham Racecourse and Para BOSS man, David Hunter. Mark is one of the many unseen faces that are the very foundation of what Team GBR has achieved over the last few years; he will turn his hand to any job and always has a smile on his face…..which makes up for the shorts!
This evening the news trickled through that Totilas will not be at WEG. All Nations have experienced the pain of losing horses close to the Championships. I do not think this makes the Germans any weaker; perhaps the opposite but all within Team GBR feel for Matthias Rath and his support team. For the sport…it would have been great to see Totilas strutting his stuff in Normandy.
The day finished with the first Chefs de Mission Meeting, hosted by the Organising Committee (OC). It was easier than some that I have been to but is always a good opportunity to air and discuss challenges that Teams might be facing and gives the OC an opportunity to keep us Chefs up to date with “info”. It is always good to get together with the other Chefs de Mission; we of course want to win on the Field of Play but we are all friends off the Field of Play. Rumour has it that the Canadians are buying the drinks at the next Chefs meeting…or was it the Dutch...or maybe the Americans…amnesia, the Irish? No...it was the Italians, as they tried to commandeer one of our Land Rovers today......