Do you want to know all the latest news about the forthcoming equestrian Olympic Games in Hong Kong, or to look back at previous editions and recall some of the greatest moments? Do you want to check out the list of competitors and the timetable of events, or to browse through the historical records which include chapters on every Olympic fixture since Stockholm in 1912 with a look back to the Ancient Olympic Games and the four editions of the Modern Olympics from which horsesport as we know it was missing? An extraordinary collection of photographs, features on a wide variety of relevant topics, details of rules, regulations and much, much more are all available on the FEI's fantastic new website www.fei.org/olympics which is online now and the ONLY place to be as the spectacular sporting occasion draws ever closer.
And when the Games begin there will be LIVE online results for every competitor to keep you absolutely up-to-date and right on the edge of your seat all the way.
Let's take a quick canter around the site to give you a taste of what is already available and what is yet to come....
The HOME page includes a list of the qualified National Federations and there is a drop-down menu of qualified competitors in each discipline. To print this you simply click on the pdf inside each discipline and voilà! - there is the long-list of riders with full details of all their horses. Also included on this page is a range of Olympic-related news stories and if you go "Through the Looking Glass" you will enter into a whole new universe of photographs including some from the official handover by the IOC to the Hong Kong Jockey Club and the 2007 Test Event in Hong Kong. As the Games begin, new photo galleries containing atmosphere pictures and views behind the scenes will be added daily.
This brings you to the photo pages and it is the historical pictures, dating all the way back to Stockholm in 1912 that are the real show-stealers. You could spend hours browsing through the spectacular collection that brings the whole Olympic story to life in a very real way. The posters for each Games are, in themselves, collectors items - full of colour and drama and quite unique.
THE OLYMPIC ALBUM
How about those lean, fit-looking horses on the gold medal winning Swedish Jumping and Eventing teams in 1912 when the host country also took individual gold in Dressage? And the wonderful window on the dress-style of the 1920's in the Antwerp collection which also includes the dashing Belgian boys who scooped the gold in Vaulting?
You feel as if you are looking down on the scene as the horses are unloaded from a ship at the Los Angeles Docks in 1932 - the year when Japanese baron Takeichi Nishi took individual gold in Jumpng - and there is a surreal quality about the picture of Harry D. Chambelain and Pleasant Smiles on their way to securing Eventing team gold for the host country, while the elegant step of Xavier F Lesagne's Tains, winner of individual Dressage gold for France, is matched by the rider's seat....
Look at those enormous jodhpurs worn by Lis Hartle from Denmark as she took her silver medal in dressage in Helsinki in 1952! and the wonderful walk of André Jousseame's Harpagon who claimed individual dressage bronze for France that year. Prince Philip is pictured handing the Jumping gold medal to America's Bill Steinkraus in Mexico City in the 1968 collection which also includes a very youthful portrait of German dressage legend Reiner Klimke while by 1976 the big screen has become a reality - look at the number of spectators in that Montreal arena!
New Zealand's Eventing genius Mark Todd took his first Olympic gold with Charisma in 1984 and the picture of the tall Kiwi during the prize-giving ceremony has become something of a classic - isn't it amazing that this man, crowned the greatest rider of the 20th century by the FEI, has qualified for Hong Kong 24 years after this photo was taken? There is also a spectacular picture of Eventing bronze medallist Ginny Holgate (now Elliott) and the great Priceless who took bronze. Ginny will also be in Hong Kong 24 years later - but this time as team manager of the Irish Eventing squad.
Super-stars are the order of the day in the Seoul 1988 grouping which includes the jumping partnerships of Pierre Durand and Jappeloup from France and America's Greg Best with the extraordinary Gem Twist, a first glimpse of Germany's Ludger Beerbaum, another Eventing gold medal for Todd and Charisma and Germany's Monica Theoredscu and Ganimedes en route to Dressage team gold. The Barcelona 1992 pages are adorned with a beaming Ludger taking his first individual gold, the happy Dutch Jumping team claiming their first, and only, gold and a sensational shot of dressage gold medallist Nicole Uphoff and Rembrandt who pipped The Netherlands' Anky Van Grunsven and Bonfire, although Anky is on top next time around in Sydney where David O'Connor, now USEF President, claims Eventing gold. And then it’s on to Athens with Anky still on a roll, great shots of reigning jumping champion Rodrigo Pessoa from Brazil with Baloubet du Rouet and team gold and individual silver medallist Chris Kappler and Royal Kalber for the USA. This is a treasure trove of great memories, and you should relish every minute of it....
The news page already contains a number of articles already published and there will be plenty more added over the next few weeks.
DID YOU KNOW SECTION
DID YOU KNOW that the first woman to win an Olympic medal dates back to the ancient Olympic Games when in 396 B.C. and again in 392 B.C, the Spartan princess Cynisca, sister of Spartan king Agesilaus II, won the four-horse chariot race. And while it does, on one level, defy all the odds as women were not even allowed to compete in the Olympic events, it can be explained by the fact that it was the owners of the horses proclaimed winners of the event, and thus a female owner meant a female winner. When you consider that chariot racing was one of the most exciting and potentially fatal of events – and in particular for the winners the greatest honour – there must have been quite a stir when the loophole revealed a female winner…
DID YOU KNOW that a horse-walker was installed onto the ship that transported the US equine athletes to the Amsterdam Olympic Games in 1928? We might think we know all there is to know about fitness training these days, but such was the concern that the horses would arrive well-muscled and ready for action that the walker was used throughout the voyage and it worked a treat. AND, for even better measure, it was commandeered from the set of the 1925 silent blockbuster BEN HUR!
DID YOU KNOW that Great Britain's Marion Coakes was the first-ever woman to win an Olympic show jumping medal when taking individual silver in Mexico City in 1968?
HISTORY AND RESULTS
Still under construction, the historical records are almost completed and will be available within the next few days but already you can wander back through the Ancient Games and on through the period dating from 1896 to 1936.
Each Games since 1912 will be described in its own individual story and full results are available under the RESULTS heading which is accompanied by some useful statistics, facts and figures including the fact that dressage rider Reiner Klimke holds the record for winning most medals in the history of the Olympic Games with an amazing total of eight. He obviously also heads up the Dressage medal rankings while America's Mike Plumb holds the record for most Eventing medals with six and Germany's Hans Gunther Winkler has the record in Jumping with a total of seven.
Under this heading you can explore the equestrian venues through maps, check out the information supplied to National Federations, read about the provisions for horse health and browse through the papers discussed at the Heat and Humidity Conference in Lausanne earlier this year. The qualification formula and the rules for the competitions are all here too and, to complete your extraordinarily extensive knowledge, you cannot be without the TIMETABLE of events, also available on the HOMEPAGE - an absolute MUST for everyone following these Games.
OFFICIALS AND ANTI-DOPING
On top of all the above there is a full list of officials with accompanying biographies - this page is worth perusing if only for the picture included. Is that REALLY dressage judges marking their sheets in those horse-carts? Is this a world away from the way we do things today? Well some judges of course might say "not at all"... but those were very definitely different times. Can you picture Mariette Withages and friends sitting up in one of these?
The important subject of anti-doping is explained in detail. There will be more tests and a tougher testing regime for all Olympic athletes while the horses will be screened as never before. The presence of one of the world's top equine laboratories on site will ensure that results can be achieved quickly and efficiently.
This is just a taste of what is in store on the website which, during the Games, will provide daily competition reports, pictures and news items along with the medal count and live feed of results. The site is designed to provide you with all you need to know about the Olympic Games past and present and to maximise your enjoyment and engagement with the 2008 edition in Hong Kong which will get underway in 21 days' time. Join us for the countdown in the lead-up period, and for all of the action during the event itself, at www.fei.org/olympics - we think you will enjoy the ride!
By Louise Parkes