Horse Sports a Go for Tokyo Olympics

Equestrians from 35 countries will participate in the Tokyo Games, which is 15 more countries represented than during the 2016 Games.
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Horse Sports a Go for Tokyo Olympics
Equestrian sport at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will take place at Baji Koen Equestrian Park.| Courtesy FEI
Before the action even begins the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are already unforgettable. Running a year later than scheduled, and with multiple challenges along the way, elite athletes are now putting in their final preparations ahead of the July 23, 2021, opening ceremony.

The Tokyo Olympics have had a difficult lead-in period, with interruptions beyond the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected the entire world and equine herpesvirus (EHV-1) impacting mainland Europe. This week, news came that venues won’t host spectators to ensure safe and secure Games.

Despite it all, equestrian sport has a record number of countries fielding teams and individuals in the three disciplines of dressage, eventing, and jumping.

The Tokyo Games entries reveal 50 nations will fly their flags during two weeks of sport. A total of 200 athlete-and-horse combinations are listed, along with an additional 48 alternate/reserves.

Formats

The new three-member format has changed the dynamic of the equestrian team competitions. Not only is the pressure more intense as each individual performance will count for so much, but it has also allowed more countries to participate.

At the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, 27 nations lined out in jumping, with 15 of those sending teams, while this time 20 teams and individuals from an additional 15 countries will take part to boost the number of national Olympic committees represented in Tokyo to 35. In eventing, participating countries increased from 24 to 29, with 15 teams compared to 13 in Rio, and in dressage the numbers jump from 25 to 30 nations and from 11 teams to 15.

Venues

The equestrian events of the Tokyo Olympics will be principally centered at Baji Koen Equestrian Park in Setagaya. This is a public park owned by the Japan Racing Association, which was also the venue for Dressage at the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games.

Back then, eventing was staged in Karuizawa and jumping took place at the National Olympic Stadium. For the Tokyo Olympics, the fully refurbished Baji Koen will host dressage, jumping, and two of the three phases of eventing.

Course designer Derek di Grazia (USA) has spent the last five years creating the eventing cross-country course on what was previously a landfill site at the waterfront at Sea Forest. The location boasts a stunning backdrop of Tokyo Bay and the city. Equestrian shares the venue, which will become a public park after the Games, with Olympic rowing and canoeing.

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