THE Princess Royal, President of the International Equestrian Federation and the British Olympic Association, conceded yesterday, in something of an understatement, that Friday's showjumping chaos at the Barcelona Polo Club which saw spectators throwing plastic bottles into the ring, did not help the image of the sport.
'I didn't think it was a great help to have that kind of day. The people who came were patently not well aware of what was happening and what the point of the exercise was. Here at the Olympics you don't get spectators with the same level of understanding as those at an ordinary horse show,' the Princess said.
John and Michael Whitaker were among the highest placed riders who pulled out after realising the competition was not compulsory and that they had enough points to qualify in the top 44 for today's individual final.
But the Princess turned aside the suggestion that equestrian sport was in greater danger than others of being dropped.
'The inquiry is looking at all sports,' she said, 'and I stress all of them. Dick Pound was talking as an individual and he also mentioned the modern pentathlon, which is a classic Olympic sport.'
Michael Whitaker said of the standard of the course, designed by the internationally inexperienced Nicolas de Bohorquez: 'It wouldn't have been out of place if there had been medals at the end of it.'
John Whitaker and Milton, drawn 33rd in today's two-round individual Grand Prix, face the stiffest challenge of their career.
After a taste of the Bohorquez style this week, there seems no doubt he will build a substantial course with technical problems and related distances to test accurate riding and a horse's scope.
John Whitaker, flanked by his brother, drawn 23rd on Monsanta, and Tim Grubb, drawn 35th on Denizen, is up against the red-hot favourite, the Dutchman Jos Lansink, on his multiple Grand Prix winner Egano. And, after the huge disappointments of the eventing and showjumping teams in the last fortnight, John will be pulling out all the stops to try and redress the balance.Reuse content