The Aquece Rio International Horse Trials, the test event that wound to a close at the Deodoro Olympic Equestrian Centre yesterday, has been widely acknowledged as a successful preparation for next year’s Rio 2016 Olympic Games, with the opportunity to test field of play, stabling and cross country operations.
Also tested were results, scoring and timing technology, training facilities, veterinary and medical services, sanitary and biosecurity procedures, anti-doping (human and equine), accreditation and media operations.
IOC Director Gilbert Felli, who was in Rio for the one-year-to-go celebrations and to check in on the test event programme, said he was happy with how things had run at Deodoro for the equestrian test event.
“We are very happy with the test event”, he said. “It’s an excellent tool to put the team together and it’s where you start to build up the team through integration of the different parties – sport, government and the organising committee. It’s why we do a test event, so that we can correct things and make sure everybody understands everything for next year, and Rio has delivered on that.”
Tim Hadaway, FEI Director, Games & Championships, also felt that the test event had been hugely beneficial. “We’ve seen great progress with infrastructure completed in time for the test event and an efficient competition delivered”, he said. “However there is still a lot of work to do to scale the venue up for next year and to ensure the standard of facilities, services and general experience for our human and equine athlete is of a true Olympic standard in 2016.”
Mike Laleune, General Manager of the Deodoro Olympic Park, which is hosting 15 sports across the Olympic and Paralympic Games, commented from the Rio 2016 Organising Committee perspective. “Overall, I’m very pleased with the results of the equestrian test event”, he said. “It culminates many months of hard work and preparation. More importantly, it gives us a very clear idea what areas require improvement in order to deliver the Olympic and Paralympic competitions next year.”
Ataide Pereira, Sports Manager at the Deodoro Olympic Equestrian venue, was pleased with the way the competition had tested so many operational aspects. “I’m very happy with how the test event went, and I want to say a big thank you to my team who worked so hard to produce the results we had here this week, and to the volunteers that helped us so much. But we have a lot of work still to do to achieve the standard we need for the Games. The best athletes in the world will be here next year, so we need to have the best facilities for them and for their horses, so that they can produce the best results.”
Ruy Fonseca (BRA), team silver and individual bronze medallist at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games, had planned to ride at the test event but his horse Quaint Normand was not accepted at the first horse inspection. Fonseca stayed on-site to support his team mates in the competition.
“I was here three years ago and thought we need to do a lot of work on the place to make it an Olympic venue”, he said, “but I’ve been very impressed with what’s been done, the effort that’s been put into the venue and how amazing it looks already, 12 months out from the Games. And I’ve heard the same comments from everybody.
“For sure things still need to be done, things need to be polished up, but in my view it’ll be a very special Games. It’s the first in South America and it’s going to provide a really important legacy for our continent for all sports, not just for equestrian. The equestrian venue is one of the best I’ve seen and hopefully it will keep going after the Games as part of the legacy, not just for Brazil but for the whole continent.”
Lars Roepstorff, the FEI appointed footing analyst, was in Deodoro to conduct scientific testing on the all-weather footing. “The material and installation definitely has the potential to provide excellent footing for next year’s Olympic Games”, he said, “but it is vital that the correct maintenance is done over the next 12 months, right up to and during the Games. Everything is in place for excellent Olympic competition next year and as it’s a pre-existing equestrian facility, all our athletes – human and equine – will be really well looked after.
An official Observers Programme was run concurrently with the Test Event, with representatives from 16 National Olympic Committees and National Federations attending three-days of presentations and meetings.
Australia, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Great Britain, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, Sweden and the United States of America all sent delegations to Rio, and the general consensus was that the Observers Programme had been extremely informative.
Will Connell, USEF Director of Sport Programs, commented: “The observers programme, from the equestrian side, has given us everything we need, and it was probably more beneficial being here without horses than with them, as we’ve able to get on with things and go to meetings.
“Having seen this venue for the first time back in 2011, the development and progression has been pleasantly surprising, and they deserve great credit for what’s been achieved. There are of course areas that need working on, but it was encouraging that these had already been identified by the venue management team. They’re not big things and are easily curable. If they carry on developing the venue at this rate it will be one of the best Olympic and Paralympic venues we’ve seen.”