Phillips' godfather quits London 2012 technical role over ticketing row
Tuesday, 26 June 2012
June 26 - Hugh Thomas, one of the most senior figures in equestrian sport and godfather to the Queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips, has resigned from his high profile technical role at London 2012 following a row over ticketing.
Thomas wanted the horse inspection event – which involves horses being trotted-up in front of judges, while a veterinary adviser checks they are in good health before the competition starts – at Greenwich Park (pictured below) on July 27, the day of the Olympic Opening Ceremony, to be ticketed.
He argued that under International Equestrian Federation (FEI) rules the event must be ticketed, however, London 2012 said it would not be logistically possible to ticket the event due to the lack of provisions on a busy day in the capital.
Subsequently, Thomas, the director of the Badminton Horse Trials, informed London 2012's equestrian manager Tim Hadaway of his concern in an email before resigning.
"I have fought this battle at two previous Olympics Games and the organisers caved in," read the email.
"[Technical delegate] Mike Etherington-Smith had the same battle in Athens [in 2004] and we thought we'd won.
"It was important to get it in the rule book so organisers can't duck the issue.
"I truly think this is a disgraceful decision and it particularly upsets me since I, when course designer, technical delegate and then chairman of the FEI Eventing Committee, personally ensured at previous Games, despite the initial wishes of the organisers, that the great tradition within eventing that the inspections are open and transparent should be upheld.
"The public nature of the proceedings is the guarantee of integrity and for enthusiasts a fascinating and integral part of the competition.
"If this decision is irreversible, I do not wish to be even slightly involved as an official with an organisation that treats the public and indeed the traditions of our sport in this way, so please replace me as a member of the Ad Hoc Committee and cancel my accreditation."
London 2012 are said to have made the decision not to ticket the event with the approval of the FEI after explaining the problems with having to do so.
"LOCOG regrets the decision of Hugh Thomas (pictured above) to resign as a technical official for the equestrian events in Greenwich Park but we have accepted his resignation," a London 2012 spokesperson told insidethegames.
"Operationally there were a number of factors which meant that we were not able to ticket the horse inspection event.
"The horse inspection happens on the day of London's Olympic Opening Ceremony and the final day of the Torch Relay so there is a lot of Olympic activity in the capital and a big demand on police resources and public transport.
"An operational decision was taken not to open this to the public for these reasons.
"We believe that hosting the equestrian events in an inner city venue will bring huge benefits to the sport and expose it to a new urban audience but this also presents different challenges which must be managed."
Thomas' goddaughter Phillips (pictured below) was selected to represent Britain's eventing team at the London 2012 Olympics earlier this month.
The 2006 world champion, is following in the footsteps of her parents, who both rode in the Olympics for Britain.
Her mother, the Princess Royal, competed at the Montreal 1976 Games, while her father Captain Mark Phillips was a team gold medallist at Munich in 1972 and won silver in Seoul 16 years later.
The 31-year-old Phillips is married to Mike Tindall, a member of the England team that won the Rugby World Cup in 2003, and she will ride High Kingdom at Greenwich Park after hopes of an Olympic place in 2004 and 2008 were dashed by injuries to her world title-winning horse Toytown.