Laurent Cellier reviews the test events
WHAT WERE THE AIMS OF ORGANISING THESE TEST EVENTS A YEAR BEFORE THE GAMES ?
First of all, we must remember that these test events were not “the 2014 Games on a small scale”. We picked out a certain number of things that we wanted to assess, and which we consider to be fundamental for 2014. I am thinking, in particular, of the surface of the cross-country course in the Eventing, the planning of the route for the Endurance, and the artificial sand surface on the Driving course.
Above all, we wanted to enter into the Games mindset by organising events in close succession and in different places. This is why we scheduled the Endurance event at Sartilly at the same time as the Eventing at Le Pin National Stud and in Caen. This allowed us to establish a system of coordination between the two sites and to test a number of procedures with regard to our organisation.
WHAT DID YOU SPECIFICALLY WANT TO TEST DURING THESE THREE EVENTS ?
On a sporting level, the surfaces were the most important issue: as the old saying goes “No foot, no horse”. We therefore did everything we could to ensure that the different surfaces enhanced the wellbeing and performance of the horses.
For the Endurance, it was the very first time that a competition over this distance (129 kilometres) and of this level (CEI 2*) was organised in La Manche. In this event, the key element was the route, and the competitors greatly appreciated the diversity of the landscapes, with sections running through forests, through meadows and on the beach.
The Eventing took place in the legendary setting of Le Pin National Stud, which is also known as “the horse’s Versailles”. Some of the world’s greatest riders took part, and all of them said that the new cross-country course, which was inaugurated just a few months ago, was top quality.
With regard to the Driving, we organised the event at La Prairie racecourse in Caen. For various reasons, it was complicated for us to hold this event on grass, as is often the case in most large-scale equestrian events. We therefore decided to use an artificial sand surface. In the end, all of the riders present, including the world number 1 Chester Weber, found this solution to be suitable because the ground does not get worn away, no matter how many participants have used it and no matter what the weather is like. Some even suggested that this type of surface might now be used at other events!
The second most important issue for evaluation during the test events was the personnel. To borrow another saying: “There can be no competition without men”. We wanted to use members of the Organising Committee and 650 volunteers to test some of the staff that will take on key roles during next year’s Games. This assessment was highly satisfactory, as everyone involved gained in experience, confidence and motivation.
The third key issue concerned the technological aspect: timing and results management. All of the data was released correctly, though we are conscious that these tests were carried out on a much smaller scale than next year’s event.
The other evaluations concerned the sanitary and veterinary aspects, as well as stable management. The feedback gained was conclusive on the whole, as no major concerns were raised during these three events.
SO, IS THE REVIEW A POSITIVE ONE ?
Positive, yes, because, thanks to these test events, for the first time we went into operational mode and we were able to identify what was okay and what needed improvement.
But, bear in mind that this year we organised three events at 2*level; next year we must serve up eight events at 4*level… We still have a long way to go, but we are confident and we now know that we have good foundations that will help us to deliver in 2014.
Furthermore, the FEI and the National Federations have faith in us. We have shown them that we can work well in operational mode. We can now work calmly during this last year and finish preparing for the Games in the best conditions.
In short, we must continue to pedal faster and faster, but at least the bike is going in the right direction!
AND WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT FORTHCOMING DEADLINES ?
The devil hides in the detail, so for now we are going to review every single thing, function by function, job by job.
Then we will organise test events for the Dressage and Jumping in Caen’s Ornano stadium in June 2014.
Finally, and this is why we are here, we will organise the Games themselves between 23rd August and 7thSeptember 2014! We are expecting 1,000 horses, 1,000 riders and 500,000 spectators… It is a unique opportunity. We owe it to ourselves to be as ready as we can possibly be in order to deliver the world’s greatest equestrian event in the best conditions!