OLYMPIA - THE LONDON INTERNATIONAL HORSE SHOW
You can spend a whole day at Olympia in December 2006 12-18th. The doors open at 9.30am for afternoon performance ticket holders and you can spend the morning browsing the shops or watching some of the morning events in the main arena. The performance then starts at 1pm.
Olympia sees amazing sporting action during the course of the Show. Visitors will be thrilled at the sight of all their favourite sporting heroes taking each other on.
There are two Show Jumping classes in each performance. The Show’s most well known and exciting classes include the FEI Jumping World Cup Qualifier (Sunday afternoon), the Accenture Christmas Puissance (Friday evening) and the Olympia Grand Prix (Monday evening). In addition, The Mitsubishi Ride and Drive competition, in which competitors have to jump the course, swop their horse for a car and drive through a course of cones, all against the clock, takes place four times during the show, and there’s a mix of other classes, including a Masters, a Speed Stakes, a Knock Out and much more. Check the programme to see which classes you will see on the day of your visit.
Show Jumping is a relatively new equestrian sport. Until the Enclosures Acts which came into force in England during the eighteenth century, there had not been any need for a horse to jump fences as there had been none. The amazing physical capabilities of the horse became recognised when they jumped these fences as they endeavoured to take the shortest route possible whilst on their journey across the country . The introduction of the Enclosures Acts also brought new challenges for those followers of fox hounds. Fences and boundaries were erected in many parts of the country as the common land was dispersed between wealthy land owners. This meant that those wishing to pursue their sport now needed horses which were capable of jumping these obstacles.
The first big international show jumping class to be held in England was in the Horse of the Year Show held at Olympia in 1907. Most participants were of a military background with inter country competitions for a team trophy . Later , this further developed with sufficient civilians participating for the competitions to be divided into Military and Civilian sections. The judging decisions in those early days were arbitrary to say the least. Some judges marked according to the severity of the obstacle and others on style. Prior to 1907 no marks were deducted for refusals though a competitor may have been asked to continue to the next obstacle for the sake of the spectators.
Competitions continued for as long as each judge saw fit and often those with the least knockdowns did not even make the final line up ! In Britain , such questionable decisions led to the formation of the British Show Jumping Association but even then , each other individual country held competitions under their own set of national rules. This state of affairs continued until eventually many years on , the formation of the FEI brought harmonization to the rules covering international competitions. Even in those days the current 'disregarding' those already qualified came into play with restrictions upon competitors who had already won a 1st prize.
SHOW HISTORY - 1970s
There were only 300 advance ticket sales so Raymond Brooks-Ward set off down Kensington High Street persuading, cajoling and bullying anyone and everyone to come to the show! Nelson Pessoa won the Puissance on Odean K. David Broome and Ted Edgar won the fancy dress.
Nelson Pessoa again won the Puissance, the time on Alcatraz. Major British wins were Graham Fletcher who won the Victor Ludorum on Buttevant Boy, and Harvey Smith who won the Dunhill European Trophy on Volvo. There was a rodeo display by Cutting Horses from America who also took on a team of polo ponies captained by Johnny Kidd, father of the international supermodel, Jodie, in a Barrel Racing Competition.
The Christmas finale was based on Dickens London. With the tradition of Olympia the cast of the finale is made up by children of the competitors and organisers and members of a local Pony Club. The Bratuchin family of Cossack riders gave a spectacular stunt riding display. Alwin Schockemohle won the Puissance and Switzerland’s Paul Weier, who was to return to Olympia in 1987 as course designer, won the Grand Prix on Wulf.
After three years the show changed its name from The Dunhill to the Olympia International Show Jumping Championships, and Colonel Sir Michael Ansell replaced Mary Dunhill as President. Mary Chipperfield brought her racing camels to the show for the first time. They were to become a regular feature at the show with Ted Edgar and the immortal “Colonel of the Camel Corps”. Hartwig Steenken won the puissance on Earl, and David Broome won the first of his three Grand Prix wins on Philco.
The tenor voice of Harry Secombe resounded around the arena in an unusual finale “Christmas Eve at Pontypridd Market”. Descendants of the stud founded in 1735 by George II, The Hanoverian Stallions from Celle, Germany visited the show. New Forest ponies performed a musical ride, Appaloosa horses paraded and the pantomime was “Alice in Ponyland”. Hartwig Steeken, by now used to success at Olympia, reinforced his hold on the major classes at the show by winning both the Puissance and the Grand Prix on Goya.
Dogs took centre stage at Olympia for the first time, but not agility dogs. John Evans, his border collies and Welsh Cob gave a fascinating demonstration of sheepdogs at work. Mary Chipperfield brought her 14-year-old African elephant Womba for a Tug of War. Since the start of the show no British rider had won the Puissance, but this record was broken in 1977 by Fred Welch on Rossmore II.
Olympia made history as every newspaper in the land carried the news that 21-year-old Nick Skelton on Lastic broke the 14-year-old British High Jump record. The pair jumped 7'75/16" to beat the 1937 record set by Don Beard and Swank of 7'61/4". One of the most popular Olympia displays first took place in 1978 - The Metropolitan Police Activity Ride. The German junior dressage quadrille added overseas flavour, and Mary Chipperfield’s Racing Camels and Donkey Sulky racing proved hilarious.
HRH The Prince of Wales lead a team of show jumpers and polo players to victory over Captain Mark Phillips’ team on the opening night, watched by Her Majesty The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. The Garde Republicaine de Paris, whose history dates back to the 17th Century, performed a classic execution of equestrian artistry in the “Reprise de la Maison du Roy”. The Pedigree Chum Dog Agility Stakes also made their debut.
Robert Smith - Olympia
SHOW HISTORY - 1980s
Tennessee Walking Horses and American Saddlebred Horses made the long journey across the Atlantic to head the line-up in 1980. It was the first time that these horses with their distinctive gait had performed in Europe. £44,000 in prize money was on offer to the competitors in the international jumping classes. Dutchman Johan Heins won the FEI Volvo World Cup Holland Qualifying Round. The 1980 show marked a farewell to Mr Dorian Williams, who commentated for the BBC for the last time. He was to carry on producing the finale until 1984.
On reaching the age of ten, the 1981 show opened with a nostalgic look back at show jumping when “Old Timers” such as Seamus Hayes and Alan Oliver competed over fences under 1948 rules. For the first time the Bareback Puissance was held with Gerd Wiltfang and his great mare Goldika clearing the wall at 6'10 1/4". 1981 saw the introduction of The Young Show Jumper Award for riders under 21. Nick Turner won the Award in this first year. One little girl, Naomi Bedford will always remember Olympia 1981, for it was there that ‘Jim Fixed It’ for her and her Shetland pony Dormouse to jump against Harvey Smith, and she WON!
Now traditional feature of Olympia, the Shetland Pony Grand National first appeared at the show in 1982. Another first was the appearance of the Westphalian Stallions who came to the show from the State Stud, Noithrhine Westphalia. Nick Skelton won the Radio Rentals Grand Prix. Harvey Smith was a winner too, but in the Pedigree Chum Celebrity Dog Agility Stakes, John Parker gave a demonstration of spilt second and precision driving when taking his four horses through a Tunnel of Fire in a spectacular musical display.
Karl Kossmayer brought his famous bucking mules from Holland and the Swedish couple, the Svenssons, entertained with acrobatics on horseback. David Broome’s famous grey horse Philco was officially retired in the arena in a tear-jerking ceremony when his saddle was taken off. David was joined in the ring by Phil Harris with whom he had purchased the horse in America. It was appropriate that Philco should be retired at Olympia as he has achieved a unique record of three Grand Prix wins at Olympia in 1975, 1977 and 1981.
Leading riders of the show were Jean Germany and Austria’s Hugo Simon. Hugo in particular had a very successful show winning three classes including the Radio Rental Grand Prix. Hungarian born Joe Turi who jumped ship when his Czikos troop visited England in 1973 was by now a successful show jumper, but in 1984 he gave an exciting display of trick riding. Who can forget Jacket, the nearly human horse and his owner Tony Hocheggar, who made their first visit to Olympia. Jacket even went to bed in the middle of the arena!
On the opening night spectators were treated to a display of Her Majesty The Queen’s Carriages with commentary by the Crown Equerry, Colonel Sir John Miller. A new innovation to Olympia, The Vauxhall Teach-In, took place on the Friday morning, and featured demonstrations by Mark Todd, Paul Schockemohle and The Kings Troop. The Kings Troop RHA was at the show for the week performing their exciting Musical Drive.
The magnificent Grand Hall at Olympia celebrated its centenary, and the traditional Christmas Finale presented by Norwich Union captured the flavour of some of the events that had been held in the hall over the past 100 years. They included Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, Barnum and Bailey & Bertram Mills Circuses and the Motor Show. A special centenary trophy was designed by Judy Boyt, which is presented each year to the Leading Rider of the Show. The inaugural winner was John Whitaker. Tony Hocheggar and Jacket returned to the show and the Household Cavalry performed their famous Musical Ride.
1987 was a successful year for British show jumpers at Olympia. They were placed in first three in all but two of the international classes; Joe Turi won the Volvo World Cup Qualifier, but the Grand Prix went to Ireland’s Eddie Macken. After an absence of five years Rosie and her fellow racing camels returned to Olympia. Records were once again broken when John Parker and his team broke the World Record for changing one team of horses for another in a breathtaking 27.63 seconds! The Finale celebrated 50 years of Walt Disney’s Show White and the Seven Dwarfs. Sneezy, Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Dopey, Sleepy and Bashful all came to Olympia to join in the Christmas celebrations.
Only nine seats were unsold at the 1988 show, a record in itself. Franke Sloothaak finished a very successful show by winning the Crosse & Blackwell Grand Prix and two hours later won the fancy dress competition on water skis! Famous circus families were to the fore - Yasmine Smart and Dany Cesar with their liberty horses and Tanya Larrigan, well known in both the worlds of circus and dressage audiences with her unlikely double act of 16hh Salute and 30 inch Hercules. The Shetland Pony Grand National raised a record £30,000 for The Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street.
Olympia was extended by one performance in 1989 making a grand total of ten. Harvey Smith was honoured for being the first man to have jumped in 100 Volvo World Cup Preliminary Rounds. Michael Whitaker was leading rider of the Show. His brother John gave a memorable imitation of Tina Turner in the Fancy Dress. Nineteen-year-old Marie Edgar won the Young Show Jumper of the Future Award. Bobby Robert’s elephant Maureen came to tea, and also joined in the Finale ‘Dumbo’.
Robert Smith on Kalusha
SHOW HISTORY - 1990s
Elegance at the 1990 show was provided by the Side-Saddle Association and their lovely Rotten Row Ride. Comedy was provided by Geoff Billington, the Rory Bremner of Show Jumping and Yasmine Smart performed a display unique in the world of circus - a liberty act co-ordinated by Yasmine herself sitting on a horse. Having recovered from leukaemia one young lady, Alison Tyas, achieved the chance of a lifetime when she raced in the Shetland Pony Grand National and was presented with her rosette by none other than Bob Champion.
The Lord Kimball became President of the 1991 Show after the retirement of the Earl of Westmoreland. The Grand Hall echoed to the unique sound of the coach shell trumpets of the Soma Samurai Horsemen. It was the first time that they had been seen outside Japan. Monica Theodorescue and Sven Rothenberger challenged the British pair Jennie Loriston-Clarke and Annie MacDonald Hall in the Volvo Dressage Pas de Deux. Veronique Whitaker and her husband Michael were first and second in the Volvo World Cup Qualifying Round, but it was Michael who was leading rider of the show.
Although the show’s mentor, Raymond Brooks-Ward, died in 1992, the event carried on in great style. John Parker and his famous Hungarian greys made a welcome return, as did The Household Cavalry Musical Ride. Ludger Beerbaum won the Volvo World Cup Qualifier and Michael Whitaker won the Grand Prix for Britain.
Seventeen-year-old Kuluhasz Ferenc who had never been out of his home town in Hungary before, stole the show as he stood on two horses and drove a further five in a Pushka seven. Michael Whitaker won the Volvo World Cup Qualifier and Peter Charles, the Grand Prix. The finale was themed on Nursery Rhymes.
The Metropolitan Mounted Police provided the thrills and spills with their humorous and skilful display. The finale produced by Major Michael Parker was themed on Peter Pan. Robert Smith won the Puissance on Gold and Ludger Beerbaum the Grand Prix.
Some of the most exciting show jumping that Olympia has ever seen with Nick Skelton coming second to Ludger Beerbaum in the Volvo World Cup Qualifier by 100th of a second. Guy Goosen broke the Puissance record on Sagrat jumping 7'3". Lorenzo, the flying Frenchman made his British debut thrilling the audiences with the flamboyant dare-devil stunts with his five white Camargue ponies. The Barcelona Mounted Police illustrated the ultimate control and timing in their musical parade, which culminated in all their Andalusian stallions lying down in the arena. Natasha Eddery, daughter of the famous jockey Pat Eddery showed that racing runs in the family winning the Shetland Pony Grand National.
Olympia's 25th anniversary with celebrations throughout the week. Lorenzo once again amazed and inspired his audiences.
The star of the show was France’s Jean-Francois Pignon who thrilled and dazzled with his breathtaking display of horsemanship with his three horses - without the aid of any tack. Olympia once again provided a thrilling Volvo World Cup Qualifier which was finally won by World No. 1 Ludger Beerbaum, who went on to become the leading rider of the show. The Metropolitan Mounted Police Display returned to Olympia to thunderous applause at every performance. Overall the show sold more seats in 1997 that in any of the previous 25 years, reaching a near capacity crowd of 94% over the ten performances.
Another record breaking year for the five day spectacular which this year featured daredevil performances from traditional Ukrainian Cossacks. John Whitaker won the Traxdata World Cup Qualifier and the crowd thrilled to the Scottish theme of the Finale. The show continued to receive extensive support from BBC Television and Eurosport.
last major international sporting occasion in the UK before the
Millennium was marked by the return of the famous camels to the packed
programme of entertainment. The camels ‘Timbu’ and ‘Rani’, who
performed dressage to music, brought down the house at every performance
and captured the interest of the world’s media. By way of a contrast
the Musical Ride of the Household Cavalry made a significant change to
their display with their classical music being replaced with
contemporary popular music. The World Cup Qualifier provided a popular
home win for John Whitaker and the veteran Virtual Village Welham. The
other side of the pond indulged in a little flag waving when Olympia
debutante Alison Firestone and Royal Future from the USA, snatched
victory by just 49 hundredths of a second, from Helena Weinberg in the
£50,000 Grand Prix.
SHOW HISTORY - 2000s
Olympia 2000 was certainly one of the noisiest shows of recent years with audience participation at an all time high, as heroes were cheered, feet were stamped and spectators young and old joined in to the popular anthem of the year, ‘Bob the Builder’. It was the year that Lorenzo - 'The Flying Frenchman', returned to the famous Great Hall. The year that the Kings Troop, ‘Jumped the Gun’, the Shetlands took the arena by storm and every time the Dog Agility started they were greeted with the chant…Who Let the Dogs Out?
An opening day parade toasted the success of Britain's medal winning equestrians from the Olympics and the Para-Olympics in Sydney. Sticking with the Olympic theme, the contestants for the 'Ride and Drive' were the Silver Medal winning eventing team of Pippa Funnell, Ian Stark, Leslie Law and Jeanette Brakewell and the Gold and Bronze Medal winning pentathletes Stephanie Cook and Kate Allenby. One of the most emotional wins of the week was provided by seventeen-year-old Robert Whitaker, when he won the Millennium challenge to become Olympia's youngest ever, international class winner.
Keeping the youngsters on their toes, fifty seven year old Liz Edgar who made a return to Olympia after an absence of 10 years, won the Knock-Out competition. But the Brits were not to have it all their own way German rider Rene Tebbel riding Meurer’s Le Patron won the World Cup Qualifier and fellow countryman Lars Neiberg and Loro Piana Espirt FRH picked up the £16,000 first prize in the Grand Prix.
Audiences were treated to theatrical spectacular with a new Finale inspired by Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table and as the curtain went down on the final night the atmosphere was thick with excitement. Olympia had once again worked its magic…with a little help from Merlin.
Olympia's 30th anniversary show proved to be a vintage edition with the international riders, amongst the best in the world, providing class action and tense jump offs.
13 of the top 20 riders in the world entered the show. Robert Smith won not one but two of the classes on the opening day for the second year in succession and the audience for the afternoon performance saw HRH The Duke of Edinburgh being presented with a richly deserved Lifetime Achievement Award by the FEI.
Peter Charles (IRL) whose dedication and professionalism is legendary proved, once again, just how good he is. On Friday night he won the Accenture Puissance in a major tussle with the great John Whitaker, jumping a massive 7'3" just 1" off equaling the Olympia record of 7'4". If that wasn’t enough, on Saturday afternoon, he brought out another of his string, Carnavelly, to win the Ericsson World Cup Qualifier in a classic jump-off.
On Sunday the Grand Prix provided an excellent last day spectacular, and whilst the new "Double Your Money" class had a few teething problems, it was generally welcomed by the riders.
The horseless horsemen Jez Avery with his mountain bike and the Nassif brothers went down a storm with the packed houses. The Nassif brothers cleared 5'4" apiece! Meanwhile Jez entertained the crowds outside waiting to come in and those in the arena itself with his skill at jumping over showjumps. The Cossacks proved a great hit with the public although at times some concern was expressed about just how close to the edge they where.
The Westphalian Stallions from Germany, provided the elegant and educational element of the displays in 2001 and the accuracy of their display along with the "Ah!" value of the Coldbloods added to the balance of the show. The Dog Agility and Shetland Pony Grand National were well received once again, adding to the family appeal of the show.
The 31st Olympia International Show Jumping Championships ended on a brilliantly optimistic note for British show jumping when Robert Smith swept all before him to win the Lalique Trophy as leading rider of the show with a plethora of placings on his two super young horses Mr Springfield and Marius Claudius.
Robert’s haul included both the Sony Ericsson World Cup qualifier - at £18,500 to the winner the richest prize of the show - plus the preliminary qualifying round and, finally, runner-up spot by the closest possible margin in the final contest, the Sony Ericsson Grand Prix worth £13,300 on Monday night.
Clear rounds in the World Cup qualifier propelled British riders Andrew Davies and Richard Davenport into World Cup reckoning, while Sunday night’s Ivy Stakes saw a stunning British 1-2-3-4 headed by Robert Smith.
The young German newcomer to Olympia, Toni Hassman, 27, also had an Olympia to remember, beat some top-class opposition to win four classes including the Sony Ericsson Grand prix, which carried a total prize fund of £40,000,
Popular audience entertainment, including the Metropolitan Police, the Hungarian Czikos, Pedigree Dog Agility, Shetland Pony Grand National and, new this year, the Leaping Frogs – France’s answer to the Chippendales – proved massively successful to a sell-out crowd all weekend; top model Jodie Kidd drew a crowd when she opened the new Olympia Shopping Village, and Olympia’s mascot, Queenie the Shetland foal, cheered children at Great Ormond Street.
Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, the American-born and her coveted Thoroughbred horse Shutterfly triumphed in a thrilling 10-horse jump-off in the Olympia Grand Prix. But it was John Whitaker who was leading rider of the show, thanks to fourth place in the Grand Prix on Lord Z and a host of other useful placings. Meredith’s achievement meant that Olympia’s two main classes were won by lady riders who took German nationality, Helena Weinberg having won the previous day’s £18,500 Sony Ericsson World Cup qualifier. For the second year running, Robert Smith finished runner-up in the Grand Prix, this time riding Kalusha.
Ticket sales at Olympia were up to a record 75,500 and the capacity crowd created a fabulous atmosphere night after night. Popular new additions to the schedule were the Celtic Dance, a graceful dressage display, and the dynamic Crazy Horse Band, while the finale, with Michael Parker’s circus theme, was voted the best ever.
For the first time Olympia became a seven day show hosting an FEI World Cup Dressage Qualifier over the first two days of the show. Over the seven days an audience of 80,000 including a total sell out of the 330 hospitality boxes on offer, provided a showcase for the top international riders in both Dressage and Show Jumping.
The show enjoyed over 36 hours of television including coverage on BBC’s Interactive channel of the whole of the Saturday afternoon performance, for the first time, as well as a BBC2 Grandstand package which featured live coverage of the Show Jumping World Cup Qualifier.
The first ever FEI Dressage World Cup Qualifier was won on the Wednesday evening with immense style by Spanish Olympic Bronze Medallist Beatriz Ferrer-Salat.
The World’s No.1 Show Jumper, Brazilian Rodrigo Pessoa, headed the line-up of show jumpers but it was the young British riders Richard Davenport, Ellen Whitaker and cousin Robert Whitaker who were the stars of the show. Davenport won the FEI Show Jumping World Cup Qualifier and the other big wins of the week included the equal placings of John Whitaker and Michael Aabo in the Accenture Puissance, Robert Smith in the Masters and Guy Williams winning the inaugural Mitsubishi Motors Ride & Drive.
The Brits though didn’t have it all their own way, the Leading Rider of the Show was Marcus Ehning (GER) who had a highly successful show, capped by winning The Grand Prix on Monday evening.
In addition to the jumping classes, the show, played host to many family favourites such as the Osborne Refrigerators Shetland Pony Grand National, the Flying French Frogs, Pedigree Dog Agility and the Bovey Castle Christmas Finale, which marked the end of each of the eleven performances. These world famous displays were interspersed between the shows two feature displays the Barcelona Mounted Police and the Metropolitan Mounted Police.
Household Cavalry and the Garde Republicaine were the feature acts. The
week started with a win in the Grand Prix Kur for the World’s No. 1
Dressage Rider Anky Van Grunsven with young British rider Laura
Bechtolsheimer pulling out all the stops for 6th place.
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