Robert Dover: The Good and the Bad of the 2012 Olympic Games

Mon, 08/13/2012 - 15:44

On request of IDRC president Kyra Kyrklund, former Dressage Task Force member Robert Dover was asked to take notes of his findings of the new Olympic format which was carried out for the first time at the 2012 Games in London. Dover's findings will be discussed during the meeting of the FEI Dressage Technical Committee scheduled for 13 - 14 August.

"Being that I am not a member of this committee myself and therefore not bound by any rules of secrecy, I thought, 'Why not share my thoughts with my readers and see if anyone would like to add something to my list before the meeting begins.' Heaven knows I have always been all for a more transparent and democratic FEI, including all its committees," Dover commented.

Here are Robert Dover's notes regarding everything from the good to the bad about this Games and the processes used for them:

1). We on the DTF created a proposal for the 2012 Olympics based on what we were told at the time were very strict boundaries set by the IOC to the FEI.  For instance, we all believed that we should be allowed to raise the number of Dressage horses to 60 instead of 50 based on the fact that the other 2 disciplines had 75 each.  We were told that we would never be allowed more than 200 horses because of costs; therefore, the 10 additional horses would need to come from the other disciplines. A- The number of 200 is purely one made up based on many years of “staying the same” without taking into consideration the amazing growth of our sport and the fact that we are filling the stands, many times beyond that of the jumpers at major championships. B- Since the other disciplines are not going to give up their spots, we should open up the subject again and ask the IOC to raise the number to 210, based on the huge number of spectators tickets sold here in London, especially for Dressage.

2)  Taking into consideration the fact that the system used for jumpers is 4 riders with a drop score and new to this Olympics,  5 Eventer’s with 2 drop scores for the Team medals, I submit that there is absolutely no reason why we cannot go back to that most reliable and well liked system. The 3-man team with the competing individual was my idea on the DTF, in order to allow for everyone there to start, unlike the situation in 2008 and earlier in 1984, when we had a 3-man team with a reserve who did nothing but sit around for a month or more to get nothing.  But my idea was bastardized somehow to only accept individuals from the WRL for both Teams and Individuals without teams. It was only meant to use the WRL for individuals without teams. All of the qualified teams were always supposed to have their individuals allowed to compete.

3)  The idea of using the GP and the GPS to determine the team medals works well, but should not have so many days between the classes as it takes away from the momentum of the competition. I believe that the compilation of the 2 scores should also have been used to determine who went forward to the Freestyle and not just the GPS scores, just as the medals were determined by both scores.  Also, I have never competed when I could not ride my horse one full time around the outside of the main arena before going in and this could have changed the outcome for some horses.

4). The two rounds of the Nations Cup ( GP and GPS) should have maintained the same process of drawing out nations, both regarding the one rider per section ( This is not jumpers where a coach and Chef only needs to leave the warm-up for a 1 minute class and then get back for their next rider) and just as importantly, the order of go should have been exactly the same as in the GP, determined by the Chef’s. More consideration also needed to be given to those individuals who started with teams and had very high scores but then were drawn as individuals at the beginning of the next class. The truth is that the argument of more media and seats filled for the medal class when the best go at the end does not hold up when one notes that both days of the GP here were packed while the beginning of the day for the GPS had many seats open and it was not until the end of the day that the seats filled up.  The seats were all sold but it looks far better when the seats are full because the class is run exactly like the first round.  It is also much better for the riders, coaches, and Chef’s to keep the same system of drawing the classes for both the GP and the GPS.

5)  The grounds for changing the GPS to the new one was to shorten it so that the entire class could be held in one day.  The fact is that the new GPS is not at all shorter by any real measure is good reason to go back to the old, much nicer GPS, knowing that it would have just as easily been able to be used for this competition and get all riders through.

6). The field of play may not, under any circumstances, be altered by human beings from the beginning to the end of the class. Two things happened here in London. A) Camera men (who were far to close to the arena and should be placed in small “houses” where they stay quiet and still.) put tarps over their cameras each time it began to rain, once when it rained so hard that as they swung around their cameras, the water poured off the tarps making the same kind of noise as when it pours off the top of a tent, scaring at least one horse which could not recoup. Also, after several horses were spooked in the GPS by a camera near F, the camera person withdrew several meters back, changing the circumstances for following horses.  This was seen to happen after the Italian and British individual horses competed with difficulties in this corner. ( This last information about the camera was told to me by Mr. Vincenzo Truppa and I did not verify it myself so I am not positive of it having been moved.)

7). Overall, the venue and the personal, officials, and volunteers at this Olympic Games have been fantastic! A more beautiful venue could not be found and the excitement was amazing.  The standard of riding and horses has exponentially increased and we are seeing more “super equine athletes” then ever imagined in a single year.  This makes it even more important to work harder to have the quality of the administration by the FEI and the Dressage Technical Committee to keep up with its own progress to do all it can to support the athletes ( 2 and 4-legged) who are truly putting the sport on the world map.

 I am happy enough with the 7 judges and the use of 1/2 marks but think the JSP needs to keep refining its role so that all understand exactly what they are responsible for changing. It was ” counting errors” but now seems to be more than that and changing a score from 7 judges from a 6 to a 5 for a piaffe that shows good steps, then shortly interrupts, and resumes for more good steps, seems to be overstepping their boundaries.  Please clarify this for everyone.

-- by Robert Dover

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