Wow wow wow.
Even though I had been to the rehearsals, I was still stunned by the amazingness of the opening ceremony. It truly honoured what we all love – the horse and the athletes that ride them. It was a fine but cold night in Caen. There seemed to be a huge number of people trying to get into the entrance at once, but it appeared to clear fairly quickly and the stadium soon filled to near capacity at somewhere around 20,000.
The first act was over in a flash, and some missed seeing it (me) but heard it and saw the evidence. Fighter jets doing a flyover leaving a jet stream trail in the French colours. Pretty spectacular but there was more to come. At this point of the proceedings it was still daylight and rather pleasant temperature sitting in the stand.
The first horses into the arena were the Normandy cobs. One was ridden, one in a harness and also another pair in harness. The ridden one was a bit upset by the crowd’s clapping, especially when they started clapping in time to the music, but all successfully negotiated a few laps of the arena.
There was a large cheer when the two American quarter horses entered the arena, doing some reining demonstrations and lots of lovely canter, looking calm and relaxed.
These were followed by five Moroccan barb horses in traditional dress, followed by four Akhal Teke racehorses, led by an unusually coloured palomino. The crowd loved their last fast lap, and I can only hope that everyone at exit was ready for their hasty exit!
At this point the music was so loud you could feel the drum beats on your ribs but things were adjusted and after that it was very appropriate. At least it go everyone going!
Next into the arena was French Republic Guard mounted brass band. These guys were awesome, I was particularly impressed with one of the greys that carried the drums. Not all of them were rock solid in their placidness, so the riders did well to play their instrument and control a skittery horse. No instruments, riders or brass hit the deck.
Now it was time for the athletes. South Africans first into the stadium. There were big cheers for the Germans, Australians and Canadians. The Brazilians danced their way around the stadium to loud applause. The small Bermudian delegation of just three looked great in red shorts (for the two men) and skirt for the woman, with black blazers.
The New Zealanders had some great support too, and looked very smart in their uniform. No eventers there, they are still competing in England, and are due in to France on Monday. I didn’t spot any eventers in the Australian, German or British teams either.
While there were not that many Union Jacks waving in the stands, the British supporters made up for it by their cheering. The biggest cheer however, was for France. The team looked spectacular in their bright red trousers – such panache! They danced and cheered their way around the stadium, and got the crowd going into a Mexican wave which went around the stadium about five times.
The Percheron stallions got quite the workout leading the teams around, carrying their flags.
We then had the official speeches, including one from Princess Haya in both French and English, before the French Prime Minister was short and to the point along the lines of “I now declare the 2014 World Equestrian Games open”.
Showjumper Kevin Staut and dressage judge Anne Prain each did the oath on behalf of all other riders and officials, promising to respect and abide by the rules, ensure the horses’ welfare was paramount and preserve the glory of equestrian sport. There was then one more rousing performance from the mounted band, then lights dimmed and the entertainment side of the show began.
Bringing tears to many an eye, the biggest white percheron horse was led around the globe (in lights) by a tiny little girl accompanied by sensational music. The huge horse carefully walked around, never putting a foot wrong. This was followed by dancers before the globe disappeared and with some deft arena work, several brightly coloured tents / teepees became the centre piece.
The music quickened and in stormed two teams of horse-ball competitors who galloped back and forth to each end and goal, throwing the ball to each other, scooping it off the ground and generally looking like they were having a great time.
The reining horses horses were next, with one doing a great job of putting in a few jumps over the lights whizzing around the green grass. The lighting was really amazing, I was especially impressed with how they created the ocean scenes.
Injecting a bit of culture into the proceedings, there was a lovely piece featuring dancers and horses in art, beamed onto big canvases on stands around the arena. The scene was then changed to a classical one, and enter the military horses doing classical dressage movements accompanied by classical music. One oops by a overwhelmed horse saw a pot plant demolished but it was very impressive overall.
Vaulting was then showcased, and a well-performed routine to a fantastic bit of music kept us spellbound. How the horse went in so quietly with the lights creating a moving city where he walked impressed me. The horse did, however, strangely not cope so well in the general parade at the end, yet he was rock solid at this point.
Back to history again, and we had both medieval foot soldiers fighting as well as mounted ones. More deft ringcraft saw an amazing recreation of the Bayeaux tapestry being created, so very artistic.
I loved the hoof prints appearing around the arena, first in walk, then trot, then canter and gallop. Awesome lighting and sound effects.
One of my favourite was the dancers and the horses on the chess board, it was over too soon but the grand finale was the fantastic white Carmargue horses who came racing into the arena. The lighting showed the arena just like one of their native beaches, and then Lorenzo came into the arena, standing on the back of two of them. He then did some incredible performances with the whole herd. Just amazing.
There was one final lighting creation of Pegasus which finished with a bang, then there was the final parade of all the participants, including Lorenzo with his white horses.
What a great show, and worth staying until 11:30, in the cold! Reports are that traffic jams did mean it took a while for people to get home, but I think they will be glad they made the effort, it will be a show to remember for some time.