Well despite the weather, and I mean there was weather… rain and cold temperatures in the last weekend of June (it is supposed to be summer!!); Rotterdam was pretty cool. Not only is it a piece of show jumping history but it has a certain sense of sophistication that a show ground can only achieve when it’s been around as long as Rotterdam. I mean there is a full, mature forest situated within the facility and you have to use these wooden plank walkways to get from the main international ring to the warm up ring. The show really has a certain exclusive ambiance that you just cannot ignore. It is an impressive show but not intimidating. Which is something I really appreciated because there are some shows here in Europe that are quite intimidating. I mean you arrive at the show grounds and you really don’t know where to go but Rotterdam has a real welcoming feeling that made me really enjoy my weekend up North.
The showgrounds in Rotterdam hosted the 1980 Substitute Olympics for show jumping. As John (Whitaker) was so kind to explain to me, Moscow was hosting the 1980 Summer Olympic and the United States led a boycott against the games. The US and its allies along with virtually the entire free world (except for such countries as Mexico and Italy) elected to boycott the official games due to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Three locations were chosen for the substitute competition; the Eventing took place in Fountainbleau, France, Dressage was held in Goodwood, Great Britain and the show jumping was contested in Rotterdam, Holland. In the official Olympic equestrian competition, the Soviet Union won eight medals, more than half of its all-time total in the sport.
57 competitors representing 18 countries gathered at the Kralingse Bos, including 13 full teams, using the standard Nations’ Cup format, Canada won team gold along with Britain winning team silver. Interestingly enough, I learnt that Nick Skelton, almost a sure thing for London 2012, has never won an Olympic medal. He earned silver for the Team competition along with John in 1980, but because Rotterdam was officially a substitute Olympics, it is not officially recognized. I found that amazing, the ‘all-time’ Nick Skelton, with all his accolades in the sport of show jumping, does not have a Olympic medal to add to the his wall. Let’s hope he can give it a good shot at London in August.
Anyways, back to the show. Rotterdam is defiantly a must-see if you are ever in the area. There is a great VIP section and lots of great shopping. I loved the way they laid out the bar near the entrance, with a huge white canopy raised high above a oval-shaped bar. A large flat screen was situated so you could enjoy a glass of wine and not miss any of the action. If the weather had been better, I am sure this would have been a great spot to catch up with old friends and make new ones. Alas, I elected to stay dry in the Rider’s lounge, where there was an awesome spread of food available breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Rider’s Lounge was also perfectly situated next to the ring (of course!!) so I could catch up with everyone and still sneak a few snapshots while avoiding the random torrential downpours.
What I found marvelous, was at the entrance of the showgrounds, you saw hundreds of bicycles. Many spectators elected to bike to the show, instead of drive. A wonderful aspect of Dutch culture and a very unique thing to see at such as show.
Security was quite tight but I appreciated how understanding the security guards were when we all realized I had forgotten to print my official parking pass. A healthy dose of Canadian charm seemed to be sufficient for these boys to let me through and I appreciated their understanding. However, note-to-self, always remember to print your official parking pass or do as the natives do, and bring a bicycle.
All in all I give Rotterdam a full 5 -star rating and recommend anyone who is visiting Holland, to visit this super show and check out the patriotic Orange spectators, who are guaranteed to attend, rain or shine.