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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Ferris Bueller's Unplanned Day Off

The first day of eventing dressage competition just wrapped up at Greenwich Park. At the halfway point, German teammates Ingrid Klimke (Butts Abraxxas) and Dirk Schrade (King Artus) are in first and second place, respectively, with scores of 39.30 and 39.80. The veteran Olympian Mary King (Imperial Cavalier) from Great Britain lies in third with 40.90.

Butts Abraxxas, a 1997 Hanoverian gelding by Heraldik XX, is just as gorgeous as I remember from the Olympics in Hong Kong four years ago. He put in a supple and dynamic test with perhaps some quickening and tension during the medium trots but a most impressive halt: solid, square, and motionless even after the applause started. Klimke dropped the reins and Butts Abraxxas stretched out his neck and walked as calmly from the Olympic stadium as if he were on a hack.

Now that's my kind of horse.

As for the rest of the day's competition, unfortunately, I didn't see much of it. I had made the decision to skip the morning's rides in favor of the planned U.S. dressage-team press conference, which was scheduled in the Main Press Centre (a mile walk, two trains, and a shuttle bus away from the equestrian hub at Greenwich Park) for 11:00 this morning.

No problem: I was out the door extra-early and arrived at the MPC at about 10:00. Inquiring brightly about the conference's whereabouts, I was informed that the event, which evidently in dark of night had been rescheduled for 9:00 a.m., had ended some minutes ago.

Um...thanks for telling us, guys. And to Steffen & Co.: It wasn't for lack of trying that I missed you!

Press-conference transcript? Not available. Press kits (promised cool stuff available only at the MPC)? Nope, all out. Even the on-site Nikon shop had run out of its free camera rain covers. Yep, I was batting a thousand at this point.

At this point, knowing that I'd missed Boyd Martin's ride on Otis Barbotiere (he's currently tied for 13th place with a score of 50.70) and that I wouldn't make it back in time for Karen O'Connor's test on Mr. Medicott (in 9th with 48.20), I decided to take the advice of the Ferris Bueller's Day Off titular character and take a look around.

I explored the vast MPC (which makes our digs at Greenwich Park seem primitive) at length. Wandering back to the Stratford International Docklands Light Rail (DLR) station, I saw signs for "Olympic Village" and "Media Entrance." Exchanging my Olympic credential for a Village visitor pass, I was allowed to explore the public spaces, including a vast courtyard, a mock-up of an athlete's bedroom, and stores and services like those at the MPC.

I love dressage. I love eventing. I love watching horse sport--but I have to admit, my Ferris Bueller day was pretty fun. Enjoy these photos. Tomorrow I'll be in position for day 2 of eventing dressage--I promise.

Huge press workroom at the Olympic Main Press Centre, near the Olympic Stadium and other major competition venues. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.
Giant mural at entrance to Main Press Centre, signed by press members. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

Free haircuts and beauty treatments at the MPC salon. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

Hit the bar after a long day's workPhoto by Jennifer Bryant.
Fitness center. Photo by Jennifer Bryant. 
Media shuttles are double-decker buses. Fun! Photo by Jennifer Bryant. 
Huge Olympics souvenir store. Note dressage horse on window at left. Photo by Jennifer Bryant. 
The Olympic Stadium, site of last night's opening ceremony. Photo by Jennifer Bryant. 
Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

No doubt which nations are staying where in the Olympic Village! I couldn't see Team USA from my limited vantage point. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

Horse sports are featured prominently on this comforter, which graces athletes' beds in the Olympic Village. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

Hang around the gate to the athletes' complex long enough and you're bound to see some athletes. I don't know who this Russian athlete is, but I liked his outfit. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

Florist in the Olympic Village makes arrangements for athletes, sent by family, friends, and fans. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

Even the volunteers and workers want to pose with a Olympic torch, a Beefeater, and the Olympic rings in the courtyard at the Olympic village. Photo by Jennifer Bryant. 
Forgive the photo quality. In the Olympic Village courtyard are tall, clear pieces of Plexiglass (or something similar) and a lot of white pens so visitors can leave messages. I wrote my own message, but in the sun the white ink disappeared except when it was reflected in the blue of my shirt. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

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