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As few as eight national federations submit written feedback on the Olympic format ahead of FEI General Assembly

Monday, 25 October 2021


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The competition format for the Olympics in Tokyo has been extensively debated both prior to and after the Games, with decorated riders such as Steve Guerdat, Ludger Beerbaum, Mclain Ward, Nick Skelton and Rodrigo Pessoa voicing criticism towards the system.

During a consultation ahead of their General Assembly in mid-November, the FEI has throughout one month given affiliated national federations, as well as stakeholders, the opportunity to share their feedback not only on the format, but also on the proposed qualification system for jumping for the 2024 Olympic Games. However, by the deadline date [15 October 2021], as few as eight out of the 136 national federations had submitted written comments on the format. As to the FEI’s proposal on the qualification system for the 2024 Olympics, ten national federations came with feedback for the jumping.

The proposed qualification system for the 2024 Olympic Games is to be reviewed “as a priority for approval” by the FEI Hybrid General Assembly, which takes place between 14-17 November 2021 in Antwerp, Belgium. Following the deadline for comments, the feedback from national federations and stakeholders will be reviewed by the Technical Committees that will follow up with the FEI Board. The outcome will be provided to the national federations ahead of the FEI General Assembly, and a discussion about the proposed qualification system will take place on 16 November during the FEI Rules & Regulations Session. The following day, on 17 November, the qualification system is to be approved by the General Assembly. Eligibility requirements and re-allocation procedures are to be submitted to the FEI General Assembly 2022 in order to review procedures with the IOC.

At the FEI General Assembly, each national federation has a right to participate and to cast a vote on the resolutions. 

To the national federations, the FEI has proposed to keep key elements of the new format introduced for the Olympic Games in Tokyo – such as teams consisting of three horse-and-rider combinations. Furthermore, the proposal includes the listing of two separate events – like in Tokyo – with the individual competition before the team competition. It’s proposed that twenty nations will qualify for a team quota place – with three horse-and-rider combinations per team, while there will be fifteen individual quota places available. This brings the total number of horse-and-rider combinations to 75, the same as it was in Tokyo. The full proposal on the qualification system for jumping, including team qualification events and individual qualification procedures, can be found here.

By the deadline, eight national federations had submitted comments on the jumping format for the Games: Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Switzerland and USA. Great Britain has stated that they will comment on the format in due course.

The French federation – the largest in the FEI in terms of the number of athletes – supports teams of four, and has left the following comment to the FEI: 

“Support teams of 4. 

This statement is strengthened after Tokyo2020 Games format experience where we are forced to recognize that there have been more drifts with horse welfare issues than in previous ones: riders overstraining their horses, combinations level below safety standards.

By underestimated the singular animal factor within our sport format we are threatening the place of our sport in the Olympic movement and in society. 

We support to have more flags as long as it is not compromising horse welfare and that all participants qualify on fair worldwide procedures to ensure safety and to have the best of our sport at the olympics.

To increase the number of flags we would recommend to prioritize on the best individuals from upcoming nations instead of having teams not fully composed by safe enough combination."

The German federation – the third largest within the FEI when it comes to the number of athletes – suggests having fifteen teams of four, rather than twenty of three. As to the competition format and the MER, the German federation comments: 

“Competition format: 

Asking to return to the format of 4 riders in a team with the lowest score at the end dropped. It is kinder to the horses because it puts less pressure on a rider if the combination makes a mistake or the rider feels he should not continue a bad round. In a team of 3, riders are at risk to overstrain their horses if they know they must complete the round because otherwise their country will be out. In a four- to-a-team format, nations could still continue in the competition if a combination was retired or eliminated. 

We must not compromise Horse Welfare for the sake of having more flags.”

“Qualification deadline/MER:

It is foreseen that by December 2022, the list of 2023 MER Events shall be published. We wish to point out that these have to be high- class CSI or CSIO in order to ensure that all riders and horses are indeed ready for a competition at Olympic level. More flags are not desirable at all costs if it means that riders/horses might be overcharged with the required skills.”

Horse Sport Ireland has expressed concern on the special qualifiers, and states: 

“Furthermore, there is concern amongst the jumping community that the special Olympic qualifiers are not of equivalent standard and do not hold the intensity that the other qualifiers do. As such, this presents an unfair advantage to those nations. Please see attached appendix 1 for example. 

Request that a proactive discussion is held at the forthcoming General Assembly regarding the qualifying procedures.”

As to the format, Horse Sport Ireland proposes teams of four with a drop score in round one of the team competition and then reducing to three for final, as well as having the teams before the individuals. 

Furthermore, Horse Sport Ireland comments on the format: 

“Consensus of IRL NF discussions: the format did not serve the athletes, the horses or the global image of equestrian sport very well. I believe all NF's wish to see equestrian sport as a brand leader, an exciting and vibrant sport to be involved, so unique in every sense, while maintain the core values of horse first, perform as one, fair and equal, for today and tomorrow.”

US Equestrian also suggests returning to teams of four with a discard, and states:

“Teams of 4 with a discard are essential for the good of the sport and horse welfare, especially in Jumping and Eventing. We believe this actually benefits weaker Nations.”

Read all the comments in full via this link.

The IOC Executive Board is scheduled to approve the qualification procedure for all sports at the Olympic Games in February 2022. 


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