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London 2012 Olympics: My View From the Inside

Being at the Olympics as Team Sports Therapist for the Canadian Eventing Team brought my level of emotions to an intense height. I had forgotten about this intensity I felt once before, when I worked as the team sports therapist for the USA at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. There has been no other time I reached this pinnacle until 2012 London Games.

The city of London was a fabulous host. They were able to manage the crowds, its wild traffic, it’s hustle and bustle. They were very polite and always welcoming. The Games were attentive to detail, well organized, with hundreds of volunteers always cheerful and ready to help at any time or situation. The people I encountered in my hotel, in restaurants, and store clerks were all equally cheerful and patient, no matter how long it took me to figure out the difference between a pound and a pence.

First of all, the atmosphere at the Games.. The colors of each rider’s clothing representing their countries. The colors of the horse’s coolers, sheets, saddle pads. The trading of country pins. The sounds. Sounds of different languages, and accents pervading Greenwich Park where the Equestrian venue occurred. The sounds of the Olympic Theme song titled “Survival”. The voices of the crowds cheering, screaming for their countrymen.

The Grandstand, brimming with camera’s, celebrities, spectators shrieking and waving flags on three sides of the ring. The far side of the ring was absent of color and sound. A white, stately and solid mansion, intently stood bordering the short side of the ring. All equestrian competitions were in her view. The mansion stood as a sentinel, an anchor to the 2012 Equestrian Games. For this, was the Queen’s House.

Since the competition was held in Greenwich Park, there was to be very little impact on the Park during and after the Games. Everything was sensitively constructed. The British did a beautiful job from start to finish.

The temporary barns housed one to three countries. They were built above ground on many posts with black screening around the base so as not to see the underpinnings of each barn. But for the other underpinnings often unseen, were the grooms, the coaches, the vets, the farriers, the therapists, team managers, and the entire support staff that accompany each country’s riders and horses.

The footing was the best in the world. Not sticky, nor deep. A perfect cushion, a perfect step.

The warm up rings were an easy walk from the barn complex. There were three in all. They were situated from the main competition ring at various distances. First was the covered arena, then two open arenas closest to the imposing and formidable grandstands and competition ring. The ring was electric. The biggest atmosphere most of the horses have ever seen. The crowds were electrifying, with hopes of their country’s riders winning the Gold.

Aside from the rings was the bowl, or in other words, the cross country course. The course was extremely hilly and undulating with views of the London skyline or the exquisite, well tended rose gardens. The jumps were each a piece of art work with the use of contrast from light to dark, to background, to drops, to imposing hedge corners as part of their design. The gallop lanes were so narrow, with crowds lining the lanes close enough to almost reach out and touch the horse and rider. Their cheering was deafening to all other sounds, as each horse galloped to or away from a jump. And now the horses. They were extraordinarily remarkable. They were true athletes. All having excellent balance, coordination, reflexes, strength, power, talent, courage, and heart. All ready and prepared to perform at the top of the game.

The riders. They performed under tremendous pressure, carrying the hopes of an entire nation. They overcame fear. They were eager, joyful, serious, fit, and focused. They rode with heightened senses and responses to reach their ultimate goal.

And then the competition. All riders and horses shared their talent and gifts with the world. The lightening filled environment, the crowds, the sounds of cheering and clapping drove into each horse’s being. Some horses found it unnerving, others used it to enhance their performance. It was not every horse and rider’s day to win. They were all prepared to meet the challenge of a lifetime, and then rolled the dice.

Congratulations to all the riders, the horses, grooms, coaches, owners, and support staff from every country, for being chosen to represent your country at the pinnacle of the Game. Thank you for sharing your talents on the world stage. On to Rio….

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