London 2012 equestrian test event at Greenwich Park hailed as huge success despite protests
Monday, 04 July 2011
July 4 - The first day of the London 2012 Equestrian test event here at Greenwich Park has been hailed as a huge success by the elite riders participating in the event despite a small group protesting against the staging of the competition.
Community action group No to Greenwich Olympic Equestrian Events (NOGOE) assembled outside St Mary's Gate, one of the main entrances to Greenwich Park, on two occasions during the day - first between 8-9am and then again in the afternoon between 3.45pm-4.30pm.
The group are planning peaceful protests twice daily at similar times on all three days of the 40-rider test event, which ends on Wednesday (July 6).
They believe that the iconic 578-year-old park will be damaged by the work conducted on it during the Games, which includes the construction of a temporary main arena for 23,000 spectators within the grounds of the National Maritime Museum.
"We are worried about potential damage to the park," said NOGOE member Sue McNeil.
"We are not anti-equestrian, not anti-Olympics even, but anti the use of this park.
"It now looks like a showground, not a World Heritage Site.
"If they [London 2012] continue with this silly idea of trying to squeeze a quart into a pint pot, we will be there until every blade of grass is lovingly restored in 2013 and beyond.
"We are fighting a huge juggernaut with a lot of money behind it.
"We are very concerned residents."
But despite the protest, the competition drew rave reviews from all the riders as dressage and show jumping took place on a sunny day one of the test event in front of an elevated 2,000 capacity spectator stand designed to avoid damaging the turf beneath it.
The British trio of William Fox-Pitt, Pippa Funnell and Piggy French were in action, and world number two Fox-Pitt admitted it was an amazing experience for him.
"It was absolutely brilliant to ride out there today and it gave us all a real taste of what it might be like next year," he told insidethegames.
"The surface is one of the best I've ever been on and is lovely to ride on.
"The location is just stunning and it already has an Olympic feel despite the fact that this is just the test event."
Funnell added: "So far they have done a fantastic job - it's surreal - it feels so untraditional and modern.
"You can already feel what the atmosphere is going to be like for the Olympics next year."
Around 9,000 tickets across the three day test event have been distributed via Greenwich Council and the British Equestrian Federation, while the London 2012 Olympic Equestrian event at Greenwich Park has already sold out.
The test event has been designed to cause minimum disruption to the local residents according to London 2012 equestrian manager Tim Hadaway.
"During this test event, the western side of the Park and the Royal Observatory will remain open throughout the event period," he said.
"The peak-time traffic routes are only closed when there are horses on the venue, for the safety of drivers and animals.
"Construction vehicles will access the park via St Mary's gate using the established construction routes, while large construction vehicles will not enter the park during peak travel hours.
"Access to the rest of the Park will be maximised, with parkland only being restricted to protect park users during construction and paths being left open for as long as possible.
"As always we will keep these restrictions to a minimum and re-open them as soon as it is safe for us to do so."
During the London 2012 Games, Greenwich Park will be fully closed for four weeks, from approximately July 6 to August 3, with sections of the park set to be reopened following completion of the eventing competition.
Certain areas will remain closed between August 29 and September 9 for the Paralympic Games but a lot of the park will still be accessible to the public.
June 2011: Exclusive - Community action group plans protests during London 2012 Greenwich Park test events
May 2011: London 2012 to donate tickets for Greenwich Park test event
May 2011: NOGOE continue to challenge Greenwich Park's hosting of Olympic events
March 2011: London 2012 equestrian manager confident Greenwich Park will not be damaged during Games
November 2010: Drivers Jonas Deloitte to manage temporary London 2012 venues