When the London 2012 Equestrian Test Event begins on Monday morning in London's Greenwich Park, expect a world's first for rider arrival when New Zealand's Mark Todd and Andrew Nicholson pull up in a special black cab promoting the New Zealand Olympic Team. Riders usually arrive at an event in a horse van or driving an SUV filled with tack. The very-urban London Olympics may change all that--will some riders opt to take the Underground?
The black cab Todd and Nicholson will arrive in is one of a fleet of four New Zealand-style black cabs on the road in London. They are designed to make Kiwis proud of their chances in next year's Olympic Games. And to make the British do a double-take.
The plan is for Mark and Andrew to arrive at 10 a.m. on Monday morning (literally "Greenwich Mean Time") at the Main Greenwich Gate (St Mary's Gate, off King William Walk). The riders will hang around for a bit with the taxi when the driver drops them off at the gates to Greenwich Park. They will give the press a chance to take photos and interview them.
(Presumably their horses are planning to arrive by a more traditional conveyance. But with the Kiwis, you just never know.)
New Zealand Olympic Team Chef de Mission Dave Currie said in a statement that he's delighted the athletes are making the most of the taxis. "Arriving in a black cab featuring team colors will remind Todd and Nicholson what it means to be a proud New Zealander as they prepare for London 2012," he said.
Team colors? That's right: New Zealand's colors are black and silver.
Eventing is just one sport where New Zealand is a powerhouse. The tiny country could probably field two teams--and both might end up on the podium.
Todd and Nicholson have each represented New Zealand at six Olympic Games already and are looking strong for a record seventh. Joining the duo on the team for the test event is Clarke Johnstone, who was also part of the bronze medal winning team at the World Championships last year.
The three phase event, officially known as the CIC2* Greenwich Park Eventing Invitational, starts on Monday and concludes Wednesday. Todd will ride NZB Campino, Nicholson will be on Viscount George and Johnstone, who only recently relocated to the UK, will be aboard Incognito.
The Kiwis will be up against some of the best combinations in the world at the test event including current world champion Michael Jung (Germany), top British Olympians Pippa Funnell and William Fox-Pitt, and Australian Clayton Frederick. Will Faudree of North Carolina is representing the United States, along with two British-based US riders, Logan Rawlings and Julian Stiller. A group of US riders will also be on hand as official observers.
In all, 41 athletes from 23 countries will compete. The event is part of the London Prepares series, the official London 2012 program which allows the organizing committee the chance to test key event aspects.
The next big competition for international eventers will be at the Aachen CHIO (World Equestrian Festival) in Germany, where some countries will be making critical decisions about team selections for London 2012.
London, meanwhile, will get ready for the test events in sailing and rowing. The London Olympic Games take place July 27 to August 12, 2012.
Thanks to Diana Dobson and the New Zealand Olympic Team for their help with this story.