I made it to London! It’s Thursday evening, and so far I’ve had too little sleep and food and too much coffee. Forgive me if I dither.
Getting here on time took a little bit of luck on my side, because when I arrived at Charlotte early for my flight, the connection to Newark was delayed. I ended up flying through Atlanta on another airline with no delay. Turns out my friend Jen Bryant of the USDF was on that Newark flight. Darn.
If dressage judges obsess about travel issues, journalists are even worse because the frustrations and issues are different for every Olympics. No learning curve there. I’ll try not to bore you with details but I’m not promising. But typical, a scheduled walk of the cross-country course for eventing tomorrow is at 2 p.m., while the last media bus back is at 1:15.
I never realized how enormous and varied London is. You will get a sense of it watching on television. Riding on the top of a double-decker bus, my first thought was that everyone in London is thinner, younger, and dresses better than I do. My usual Talbots/Chicos/LLBean uniform is hopelessly ‘80s here. The streets are a polyglot of languages like NYC, and that’s not just because so many people are here because of the Olympics. The British volunteers I have met have been amazingly cheerful and gracious, as have been the Army people manning the endless TSA-type security checks. Many volunteers are here spending their own funds for housing and transport just to be part of the Olympics.
You will be able to see much of the equestrian events live online (maybe in the middle of the night – remember there is a 5-hour time difference if you are on the East Coast, 8 hours on the West Coast. Eventing dressage starts here at 10:30 Saturday (5:30 a.m. EDT). There’s schedule on the NBC website, if you want to check.
Okay, all horse people care about shoeing and footing. I was wearing sneakers today but still slipping and sliding on all the temporary walkways laid down in Greenwich Park, so I may just change to my Muck Boots for the duration. I think I’m the only person in history who broke a leg judging at a show, rather than riding, but it’s a precedent that I don’t want to revisit, especially thousands of miles from home.
Everything at Greenwich Park is temporary. And thus tricky to negotiate at times. It seems just amazing but the rings, grandstands and stabling have all been set on platforms so that the cultural value of the park won’t be disturbed in any way and can be set back to rights after all the horse stuff has been erased. Knowing that, I was surprised to see the press center there is in a beautiful museum, the maritime museum of all things, at the edge of the park. We have to go through the Titanic memorial rose garden to get to the arena. Hope that’s not an omen.
My position in the arena is 36 rows up, near the very top, and it’s a climb because these are the most vertical stands I have ever seen, I guess to save space. It will be an aerobic workout every time I go up there. Should make my doctor happy. I was taking serious hold of the handrails as I got near the top.
Because space is at such a premium, the horse stabling and exercise areas are closer than usual. I can’t count on seeing specifically who I want to see, because access is very limited, but you can see riders and horses everywhere. Literally the first rider I saw as the bus arrived was Britain’s Zara Phillips, granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth and daughter of U.S. eventing team coach Mark Phillips. I was able to watch some of the schooling in the main arena. Lots of noise and loud music planning, and I suspect it was to get the horses used to arena commotion here. The jumbotron is much further back and out of sightline for the horses here, good news for those of you who remember the problems with that 4 years ago in Hong Kong.
It’s just the eventers on site now. They will leave after their competition ends Tuesday and the dressage/jumping horses will arrive. That will keep the need for stalls at a minimum. I hope to tell you all more after the course walk and vet inspection for eventing tomorrow.