Greenwich Park: Stadium Update

Weeks of wet weather have threatened the integrity of the original plans to construct the temporary Olympic equestrian events arena in London's Greenwich Park. The stadium construction is under scrutiny by local residents who fear for the historic and natural features of the park. Fran Jurga provides background on the arena's change in plans.
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Weeks of wet weather have threatened the integrity of the original plans to construct the temporary Olympic equestrian events arena in London's Greenwich Park. The stadium construction is under scrutiny by local residents who fear for the historic and natural features of the park. Fran Jurga provides background on the arena's change in plans.

May 23, 2012

Construction began on April 2, 2012, to build a temporary equestrian village not on but above the hallowed ground of Greenwich Park, one of London's historic Royal Parks. The innovative plans called for the structures to be built on platforms supported by stilts. And then the rains came. Maybe the earth of the hallowed park didn't exactly move, but because the construction has to hold more than 20,000 spectators--as well as galloping, jumping, and pirouetting horses--the organizing committee made a change in the plans. On Saturday, the BBC announced that changes in the construction would require 15 cm (about six inches) of soil and grass to be removed. According to the BBC, it is possible that steel plates or stone will be laid in the ground to stabilize the support. Portions of the park, located on the south side of the River Thames,?have now been closed off to the public. While the primary feature of the construction will be the main arena seen in these photos, there will also be training rings, broadcasting facilities and stabling constructed. Out in the Park, the circuit of the cross-country course will require construction. The plans are to include some obstacles that will become part of a children's playground. The pond that will become the water element has been drained and lined with rubber mats. The citizens of the village of Greenwich are sitting tight, as they prepare for whatever the summer and the Games may bring. Just two months ago, local residents learned that, in the event of a drought, the equestrian event crews would be exempt from water conservation restrictions in order to preserve the integrity of the cross-country course and arena footing. And then the rains came. As with all projects in London that require a shovel, ?history is involved--and may even benefit. According to an article in The Telegraph,?LOCOG has appointed an archeologist from the Museum of London to monitor the works. In early excavations for the equestrian events, the Museum of London recorded the finding of human remains and a World War II air raid shelter. Sebastian Coe, a double Olympic hero himself and chairman of the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG), wrote an open letter to the citizens, which included this message: ?I know there will be some disruption to Greenwich Park, the town centre and possibly your street over the next few months, and that for many of you this will have a personal impact.?But I hope you feel it is worth it for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We have worked extremely hard to minimise the impact the Games will have, and we have listened to residents? concerns throughout.?

On shaky ground: Weeks of rain have forced changes in the plans for the temporary Olympic equestrian arena in London's Greenwich Park. Photo by Gordon Burgess.

On shaky ground: Weeks of rain have forced changes in the plans for the temporary Olympic equestrian arena in London's Greenwich Park. Photo by Gordon Burgess.

Support columns for the arena at the 2011 test event created a platform that hovered above the royal ground. (FEI photo by Kit Houghton)

Support columns for the arena at the 2011 test event created a platform that hovered above the royal ground. (FEI photo by Kit Houghton)

Stadium seating under construction on May 14 looked like a giant Erector Set; photo by Paolo Martini

Stadium seating under construction on May 14 looked like a giant Erector Set; photo by Paolo Martini

Looking down on the rising stadium from Greenwich Park's ?Observatory Hill, it looks like a rock concert is being staged. The stars at this event will be horses and their riders from around the world. Photo by Zimpenfish

Looking down on the rising stadium from Greenwich Park's ?Observatory Hill, it looks like a rock concert is being staged. The stars at this event will be horses and their riders from around the world. Photo by Zimpenfish

Greenwich Park's unique equestrian city will be home to all the equestrian events of the Olympics and Paralympics, including the modern pentathalon. And then the raised city will be razed and carried away in trucks, the same way it arrived.

Hopefully, the beautiful park will be none the worse for hosting the equestrian portion of the 2012 Olympic Games. Fans of international equestrianism owe a big thanks to the people of Greenwich for the loan of their park.

Let's hope the sun shines from now until July. But maybe not too much.

????????? Fran Jurga is a freelance writer and editor from Gloucester, Massachusetts. Her blogs include The Jurga Report for EQUUS Magazine and War Horse News on the 2011 Steven Spielberg film. Fran is the founder of Hoofcare and Lameness Journal and writes a specialist Hoof Blog. You can follow Fran on Facebook and Twitter for more news about the horse world. In 2008, Fran wrote the WorldRides blog for the Hong Kong equestrian events of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the Discover WEG blog for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in 2010.