As Winter Olympics begin, a look ahead at equestrian sports sites for Tokyo 2020 Games

Baji Koen
Credit : whereintokyo.com

Friday 09 February - 11h44 | Ian Clayton

As Winter Olympics begin, a look ahead at equestrian sports sites for Tokyo 2020 Games

Action is already underway in some sports at the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, with the official Opening Ceremony happening today, Friday, February 9 in Asia. 

 - As Winter Olympics begin, a look ahead at equestrian sports sites for Tokyo 2020 Games

But while there are no equestrian sports at these Winter Games, elite athletes in Show Jumping, Eventing and Dressage have their sights set on the next Summer Olympic rendezvous, in 2020 in Tokyo. To mark the start of the Games in Korea, GrandPrix-Replay takes a quick look ahead at the planned venues for equestrian sports in Japan.

According to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI), there will be two distinct sites for the three Olympic disciplines in Tokyo – one traditional and one modern.

Most of the 200 human-equine athlete combinations – 75 in Jumping, 65 in Eventing and 60 in Dressage – will be based at Baji Koen, the same facility that hosted equestrian events during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Baji Koen will be the site for the Olympic Dressage and Jumping disciplines, as well as the Eventing Dressage and Jumping phases.

Baji Kōen, or 馬事公苑 in Japanese, is located in the Setagaya area (世田谷区) and is owned by the Japan Racing Authority. It opened in 1940 and was originally used for training horses, racing horses, and other equestrian activities. It is described as having 45 acres of grounds, with 100 resident horses on-site, and is particularly popular during cherry blossom season. 

In fact, originally the Organizing Committee planned to have the main equestrian venue for the different disciplines at a site called Dream Island in Tokyo Bay, an island built on landfill. But in 2015, a switch was approved to Baji Koen to bring equestrian sports back to a more centralized, connected position in the Games, as well as save money and diminish the construction of new facilities – moves aimed at reducing costs and improving environmental sustainability. According to officials, originally 33 per cent of the proposed venues were pre-existing facilities, but the changes increased that to approximately 50 percent.

"We were more than happy to agree to a venue change that helps Tokyo stay in line with the Olympic Agenda 2020 recommendations," FEI President Ingmar De Vos said at the time, "and especially as Baji Koen is a beautiful public park that will make a spectacular venue for the 2020 Olympic equestrian events and keeps our sport right at the heart of the Games." Article continues below.

Eventing cross-country on Sea Forest island

Eventing cross-country on Sea Forest island - As Winter Olympics begin, a look ahead at equestrian sports sites for Tokyo 2020 Games

Cross-country course (larger image below)
Credit : Tokyo 2020

Nevertheless, the Eventing cross-country phase is still planned to take place at another site in Tokyo Bay, Sea Forest, also known as Umi no Mori. Olympic rowing, canoe sprint and mountain biking will also be staged at Sea Forest, organizers have said. 

Sea Forest, like Dream Island, is part of a group of artificial islands created by putting garbage from the metropolitan area of roughly 38 million people into enclosed landfills in the bay in the 1970s and 1980s, using special technology. Today, the Japanese capital hopes the forest island will help "clean the city’s air, reduce the heat island effect, involve elementary school children, and provide cool breezes throughout the city in summer." To that end, star architect Tadao Ando has led an iniative to plant 500,000 saplings to transform the 88-hectare island into 'Umi no Mori' or Forest on the Sea.

"The garbage is sandwiched inside landfill extracted from the construction sites of Tokyo," Ando commented in an article in Wallpaper. "The surface layer is covered by soil and leaf compost. The garbage underneath will naturally break down. There’s no toxicity, but we do have to extract methane gas, which is produced during the process of transformation of the garbage. We collect this methane gas and use it as fuel for power generation."

"Designing architecture is very similar to designing environments," Ando added. "The aim of the greening projects in which I’m involved, including Umi no Mori, is to recover the environment and scenery for future generations."

As British Eventing reported in 2017, Great Britain’s David Evans (who has worked with the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials) was named to build the cross-country track in Tokyo with designer Derek di Grazia. Evans stated at the time that, "It is a great honour to be involved in Tokyo 2020. I have just visited the site with Derek – it is fantastic and involves very interesting terrain. The organizing committee are very welcoming and are doing everything in their power to help us." Image below of Sea Forest, including rowing waterway and cross-country course, from Tokyo 2020. 

Eventing cross-country on Sea Forest island - As Winter Olympics begin, a look ahead at equestrian sports sites for Tokyo 2020 Games


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