Stadium saddles up for equestrian
26th November 2008, 5:46 pm By Principality Stadium
There will be no chance of any horsing around for Millennium Stadium staff once the sell-out Wales v Australia clash finishes on Saturday afternoon. More than 200 staff will have to get the bit between their teeth as they transform the rugby pitch into a world class equestrian arena.
The Millennium Stadium will host its very first equestrian event on Sunday – the Express Eventing International Cup – which means staff face a race against time to assemble 28 cross-country jumps, 12 showjumping fences and three water jumps, along with countless more features, which will need to be in perfect position by 6am.
Millennium Stadium Manager, Gerry Toms is looking forward to the challenge ahead. "The Millennium Stadium over the past nine years has built up a reputation of hosting a diverse range of events from concerts to speedway to moto cross to exhibitions and conferences but this will be our first dabble into the equestrian world," he said.
"We are looking forward to it. It is a unique event and the setting will be absolutely superb. It does create a whole list of logistical challenges for us to face together. What we will see – I’m quite sure – is a spectacular event so we are very pleased to host it at the Millennium Stadium."
Express Eventing will condense all the skills and excitement of traditional eventing into just half a day under the roof of the Millennium Stadium.
For the very first time, spectators will be able to watch all three disciplines – dressage, show jumping and cross-country – from one seat, and follow the progress of every horse and rider at each stage of the competition.
Stuart Buntine, director of Tricorn Events, the organising company, said, "From the moment I walked into the stadium the whole concept has really excited me. Eventing has been a passion of mine for nearly 40 years and in that time I’ve always wanted to showcase the event and take the sport to a new audience. The moment I walked out on the second tier I suddenly saw the sport from a different angle. The stadium has been brave in what has been quite a brash move to allow us to come in. I do believe it is going to change the face of the sport."
A world class field will compete for the £250,000 pot, including Irish Olympic rider Austin O’Connor.
"Growing up I always wanted to be a footballer or rugby player because I wanted to play in a place like the Millennium Stadium. Now here I am all this time later, about to ride onto the famous pitch on a horse."
O’Connor, who has vast experience at the highest level, is eagerly awaiting the opportunity of competing in the revolutionary concept.
"This is going to be totally different to anything any of us have done before," he explained. "Normally our event is over a few days but here we will have to be mentally switched on from 7am in the morning. This is a novel concept and I’m really looking forward to it. And I bet my horse’s owners would never have thought that they would be returning to the Millennium Stadium."
O’Connor was referring to Sue and Eddie Davies who own his ride Hobby Du Mee. They are keen Bolton Wanderers fans and were at the Millennium Stadium in 2004 when Wanderers played in the Carling Cup against Middlesbrough.
Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips and musical mastermind Andrew Lloyd Webber are lined up to give their outspoken views on the freestyle dressage to music, which kicks off the day’s action at 11am, while Strictly Come Dancing competitor Jodie Kidd and Tara Palmer-Tomkinson will go head-to-head in a celebrity jump-off between the dressage and the combined show-jumping and cross country competition.
Tickets for the event are available this week until midday Saturday from Ticketmaster – www.ticketmaster.co.uk and by calling 08705 582582.
Tickets are also available from Ticketline – 02920 230130 and to personal callers at 47 Westgate Street, Cardiff.
Event day ticket info:
Tickets will be available to purchase from 8.30am on Sunday from Ticketline, 47 Westgate Street, the Cardiff Blues ticket shop opposite the Angel Hotel and the ticket office at Gate 3 will also be open from 8.30am and will close at 2pm just prior to the Jumping stage.