Blog #14: Dodging bullets and birthdays

Talk about having dramas at the dressage day of the Olympic eventing! Too much drama for everyone.

IMG_0517
Let It Bee with Kathryn Roberts from Canada at the conclusion of their dressage in hot conditions.

Dressage day was more “interesting” than I ever wanted, but for the wrong reason. However, it was good to see the competition under way, with some great tests. While Tim and Sir Mark did well, both were ever so slightly disappointed with their performances and scores, although I reckon that at the end of the event, it will be about who does best in the jumping phases. But it was the action later on in the day that I didn’t appreciate; more about that later.

There were always going to be some problems on the first day of the Olympics, but I didn’t plan on getting too caught up in them. Yes the loos are not great (no locks and not many), and yes we do need more toilet paper, coffee, water, and food outlets, but I’ve worked around that as best I can and have bought various protein snacks from home, plus my own water bottles from the Village. We’ll bring our own loo paper tomorrow.

Candid shots help tell the story of what the atmosphere is like
Candid shots help tell the story of what the atmosphere is like

What I didn’t plan on was being thwarted from taking photos because of some over-zealous officials in the media centre. I was told that as I was an accredited journalist and not a photographer, I was not allowed to take any photos, even with my iPhone of my friends, let alone of the riders and horses competing! We have a good tag team worked out here at Horse & Pony magazine: Libby takes the spectacular action shots, and I cover with the ones of the sideline action and those more candid-type shots.

We know you love those a lot, so you can imagine my concern when I was told that my camera was suddenly redundant. “It is IOC rules,” they insisted. Luckily, Ashley Abbott, the NZOC Communications Director, arrived and was able to confirm that this was definitely not the case. She agreed to come to talk to the Venue Media Manager about it, and so off we went, to find that Anja (who really is lovely) had already established that her officials had taken things a bit far. So, I am now back taking photos, but unfortunately while Tim was competing I was still under this “ban”, so missed taking some of the shots I was hoping for.

Some of the army boys inspecting the offending bullet outside the media room while we were up in the tribunes
Some of the army boys inspecting the offending bullet outside the media room while we were up in the tribunes

The next drama which also was not planned for was having to go into a security lockdown in the middle of the day thanks to what apparently was a “stray bullet” which found its way into our media centre. I was up in the tribunes (i.e. the reserved seating for media, complete with TV screens and workbenches, WIFI and power plugs) when I got this very strange message from Di Dobson, who is working here as one of the Press Attaches with NZOC. “Get out of the media centre; NZOC directive.” Yikes, what had I done now? I instantly thought I was in trouble again for breaking some more Olympic rules. But this time I had been in the right place doing the right things, and keeping out of trouble.

Louise Parkes, a great journalist and now looking even better in a Horse & Pony cap!
Louise Parkes, a great journalist and now looking even better in a Horse & Pony cap!

Poor Di was the one who had heard the bullet whistling past her and seeing it on the floor. Libby Law also was in the media centre as we were on the lunch break and she was downloading photos. FEI journalist Louise Parkes was there too, just feet away from where the bullet flew. Jon Stroud, the fabulous photographer and all-round good bloke was also involved and was the one who alerted security.

NZOC leapt into action, and summoned all the New Zealand media at the equestrian centre (and there were a few) to the media office underneath the grandstand, within the comfort of concrete walls. We were advised not to leave: it was a Code Red. I am very thankful that I am part of such a great crew – from what I have heard, only the Swedish also took such preventative measures. It was so reassuring to get that support. I still can’t understand why they didn’t evacuate the media centre, as at that point nobody knew where the bullet had come from. The NZ media spent some time in the “bunker” and then, not long before Sir Mark was due to go into the arena, we were advised that the Code Red was off and that while it was still a high alert situation, we could go back to work.

All the athletes had been notified of the situation, and while Sir Mark acknowledged that he had never ridden a dressage test after receiving advice that there were stray bullets flying around, he was unfazed and did his best in the arena despite it.

Our press tribunes in the grand stand. We spent most of the day working from there which proved to be a great idea.
Our press tribunes in the grand stand. We spent most of the day working from there which proved to be a great idea. That’s Eventing Nation’s Jenni Autry giving her Kiwi friends a wave

So yes, it certainly was an action-packed day, and yes, it is my birthday back in New Zealand, but not here yet. Thank you to all those who are sending messages which I haven’t had a chance to respond to. In fact, I’m trying to dodge the whole birthday thing.  I’ve put any celebrations on hold until the end of the eventing competition, when I am hoping to tag them on to some other celebrations.

There’s a lot more drama still to come – but let’s hope it is just ordinary eventing drama; there’s enough of that at a normal event!