I had a tour of the WEG cross-country course this morning. I say “tour” and not “course walk” as the entire thing was conducted from the relative comfort of a golf cart. The course is long, winding, and runs over undulating ground, with a punishingly steep, lengthy climb to the finish dubbed “Heartbreak Hill”. In skin-peeling sunshine and humid 90-degree weather it would have been the end of me for sure on foot. We will see what tomorrow brings as I navigate it on what is likely to be a windy, wet cross-country day thanks to the remnants of that bitch Florence.
A long-overdue press conference was held today to address the endurance debacle from the first day. FEI president Ingmar de Vos led the meeting which included president of the veterinary commission for endurance Thomas Timmons and FEI Veterinary Director Göran Åkerström. A promise was made to release statements following an investigation as to who was responsible for redirecting a group of riders, necessitating a restart; and what the final position of the remaining riders on course was (which could be tricky, as the GPS tracking system was partly down). More bad news was revealed when the identity of a horse that had been in distress during the race with kidney issues was euthanized this afternoon – Barack Obama, ridden by Team New Zealand’s Jenny Champion – was released; you can read it here.
During the endurance press conference, a reporter asked if the FEI was questioning the viability of the games given how many venues have had difficulty staging the enormous event. Having been asked the question for many years now, it was notable that for the first time, at least in public, de Vos did seem to be considering the viability of the Games in future.
Whatever these Games will be known as once they are over (and believe me, a lot of people would give them a nickname which might not be repeatable in polite company), for the media they will certainly not be called the Hunger Games. Food in the media centre has been spectacular and varied – always fresh fruit, sandwiches, salads (Caesar with grilled corn and spicy dressing oh my), pasta, hot lunches and desserts and snacks all day long. Props to Blue Ridge Event Catering in Asheville for that. You guys rock.