The European championships in 2021 have greater importance to most European equestrian nations than Tokyo, according to Theo Ploegmakers, president of the European Equestrian Federation (EEF.)

Ploegmakers urged the FEI to be ready to stage the Europeans next summer despite having cancelled them in May. At the time, the FEI said the timeframe around the rescheduled Tokyo Olympic Games was too tight, and posed an “unlevel” playing field for countries with insufficient horses and riders to mount two separate teams.

But after a backlash the FEI tasked the EEF with proposing a new championship schedule well outside the Olympic fortnight. “Several” as-yet unidentified venues have come forward to host the jumping, originally slated for a multi-discipline event in Budapest, Hungary, which is not able to alter its dates.

The EEF represents over 40 active equestrian nations, which in a normal year stage over 60% of the FEI calendar.
Says Ploegmakers in his latest newsletter: “To know what will be possible in 2021, we need a clearer view on many critical factors, including, among others, if the Olympic Games will go ahead as planned, if vaccines will be available, or if reliable track and trace systems will be in place. One feasible prediction is that the economy will be under pressure and that revenues out of sponsorship, broadcast and the ticket-paying public will be even less granted as they were already before.

“Which is going to be the ‘new normal’ for equestrian competitions? Will horses be allowed to be transported across European borders?

“Desired futures may differ, but many see an opportunity to alter the course of the equestrian sport. Notably, many federations are of the opinion that the sport is best served when concentrated on a continental level, with the European Championships as the ultimate goal.

“Even when the Olympic Games in Tokyo go ahead, the European Championship is for the vast majority of EEF Federations the most important event in 2021. While it is not customary to hold two major tournaments in a year, the EEF is calling on the FEI to make an exception for 2021, as the extraordinary circumstances we are going through require extraordinary measures.”

These remarks come the same week that Thomas Bach, IOC president, gave a press conference about Tokyo planning. He said vaccines and rapid testing for COVID-19 would not be the complete answer. “They will not be the silver bullet but they can greatly facilitate the organization of the games,” he said.

He declined to comment whether Tokyo would take place without spectators. “We don’t know how the world looks like tomorrow, so how can you expect from us to know how the world looks in 320 days from today?”

Japan’s Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto said, “I feel we have to hold them, no matter what.”