Friday, Mar. 1, 2024

Eventing Format Changes In Store For LA28 As Sport Works To Stay In Olympics

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Eventing at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics is likely to look different than it does now, as the Fédération Equestre Internationale works to safeguard the sport’s place in the Games.

Although the FEI had announced in October “that the equestrian disciplines at competition at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games will be on the Los Angeles 2028 sports program,” FEI Eventing Director Catrin Norinder said Saturday at the organization’s 2024 Online Eventing Seminar that eventing has not yet been confirmed for inclusion in the Los Angeles Games. 

One of the IOC’s priorities for the 2028 sports program is controlling costs and reducing the complexity of presenting the sports, “focusing on ensuring compelling and high-value sessions, while reducing the cost and complexity of operations, e.g. number of competition and training days,” as well as trying to use “only existing venues and fields of play with no major adaptations.” 

To that end, a venue is needed that can hold the entire competition, rather than using a separate venue for cross-country, as happened at Tokyo and many previous Games. Olympic organizers also want the format changed to award medals after the popular cross-country phase.

Cross-country at the Tokyo Olympics (New Zealand’s Tim Price and Vitali pictured) was held at a remote site, which increases costs and complexity of hosting the sport. To take its place in the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, eventing must have a venue that can accommodate all three phases, and likely will see a format change to hold the exciting cross-country phase last in the team competition. Libby Law/FEI Photo

In a pre-recorded message broadcast during Saturday’s seminar, FEI president Ingmar De Vos expressed his confidence that a suitable venue will be found and urged eventing stakeholders to keep open minds about the format changes.

Under the preferred of two proposals presented to the FEI by the Olympic Broadcasting Service, the team competition would run with cross-country held as the final phase—similar to a short-format CCI, but continuing to use long-format distances and jumping efforts—while individual medals would be decided by a second show jumping round to be held the day after cross-country. The FEI shared the potential format change with national federations and other stakeholders Saturday during the online seminar.

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“The proposed competition format for LA28 following discussions with the [International Olympic Committee] and proposals from Olympic Broadcasting Services which the FEI presented today is still very topline,” an FEI spokesperson wrote in an email after Saturday’s meeting, emphasizing much remains to be decided. “… [T]here will be a more detailed consultation process with National Federations in the coming weeks, but it was felt this seminar would be a good opportunity to present the proposals or start the conversation around changes to the eventing competition format for LA28.”

The FEI has been given a short timeline to weigh in on the proposed changes, with the IOC asking all international federations to submit their formats and any proposed changes by March 1. In that time, the FEI and national federations will work together to iron out the details of a reformatted competition, which likely would talk place over four days:

• Day 1: Dressage

• Day 2: Jumping

• Day 3: Cross-country, followed by team medals

• Day 4: Jumping, followed by individual medals

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All competitors would participate the first round of jumping, as riders competing as individuals would still need to complete the three phases of the “team test” before moving on to the second, individual medal round to be held the day after cross-country. This would allow the team and individual competitions to remain separate, as well as providing the opportunity to have team and individual medals awarded in separate ceremonies on separate days.

Whether all dressage would take place on the first day and all team jumping on the second, or whether it would hew more closely to the short format, where dressage and jumping are often held on the same day (with half the field completing their dressage and team jumping on Day 1 and the other half on Day 2, for example), is among the many details yet to be determined, according to the FEI.

After the proposal was announced at Saturday’s meeting, for example, FEI eventing judge Sandy Phillips asked whether a veterinary inspection would be held after cross-country “so that the health and welfare of the horses and can be assessed before medals are awarded.” Those details are among the many still to be ironed out.

Those involved in the proposal also hope the format change will optimize the draw of the cross-country phase, making it more exciting to a broader range of spectators outside the sport, with performances in that phase deciding the medals, FEI Eventing Committee Chairman and USEF Director of Sport David O’Connor said.

While the IOC has asked international federations to submit their sport formats and any proposed changes by March 1, it is not expected to finalize format changes for Los Angeles until after the completion of the Paris Games.

“In principle, yes all three disciplines are confirmed for LA28, however, it is contingent on all three being held at the same venue to ensure cost control and reduction of complexity,” the FEI spokesperson wrote. “We are confident the venue for equestrian at LA28 will be announced in the next quarter and meet the necessary requirements to host all three disciplines, which has not always been the case for the cross-country phase of eventing, however, until the venue is confirmed/announced, eventing remains to be confirmed.”

More immediately, O’Connor said that the 16 team places for the Paris Games have been allocated for eventing (going to France, Germany, the United States, New Zealand, Great Britain, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Canada, Brazil, Australia, Japan and Italy) and that an estimated 29 nations are expected to be represented between teams and individual athletes in the eventing competition. The exact makeup of the individual competition will be clear after June 24, the deadline for all participating athletes to have attained their mandatory eligibility requirements, including one from a 2024 CCI4* or CCI5*. In all the equestrian sports combined, 25 nations are expected to be represented in team competition, or 47 including individual competition.

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