I count ten days as some of the most significant in my life; I hope that when I die, someone will mention that I was a volunteer for the equestrian events at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. I hope that anyone who has a chance to volunteer, or attend as a spectator, in their lifetime, does at least one Olympic Games. They are a horse show like no other.
While my duties varied, I had the most fun at the cross-country course. If you remember, in 1984, Santa Anita racetrack hosted almost all the equestrian events with the exception of the cross country portion of the three day event. That was held at Rancho Sante Fe, near Delmar, south of Los Angeles.
As a result of the logistics of shipping the horses from Santa Anita down and back, the three-day event actually ended up being held over five days, as they put an extra day in between the last dressage day, the cross country day, then another day and the show jumping. Yes, it was weird. Seemed to work, though.
Some great moments came when Herbert Klug dismounted from his horse in the warm-up area, waiting for his turn to go into the final competition ring, and turned to speak with me, chatting as though I was an old friend, while his grooms attended to his horse. He was just trying to alleviate tension, I am sure, but it was wonderful nonetheless to be considered worthy to speak to by a German Olympic dressage rider just before the test of his life.
I also was blessed to have access to the stable area for press interview purposes and was able to see the great Charisma in the New Zealand barn, and ride on a New Zealand golf cart. I loaned my makeup compact to Lucinda Green and Ginny Leng when they were upstairs in the press conference area, just prior to the world wide press conference, because these English ladies were sweating and unused to the heat of a LA summer and wanted to look their best for the cameras.
I was within earshot of a strategy session between Frank Chapot and George Morris during the show jumping at ringside. I got to pet the great show jumper, Big Ben, and take photos of him in warmup thanks to his groom at the time.
I witnessed perhaps the greatest victory round of all time, Dr. Klimke on Ahlerich, with the tempe changes and extended trot to die for, LIVE, and stood and cheered and had the tears streaming down my face just like the Swedish photographer on one side of me and the New Zealand newspaper reporter on the other side.
I met Prince Phillip when I had to bring him official score sheets to initial (as president of the FEI, he was “the buck-stops-here” responsible for all scoring); in the LA heat, he was cool as a cucumber while all of us around him were sweating buckets.
I emptied shavings bags and bedded 40 portable stalls at the cross-country at dawn, just before the cross-country day started, and remember helping to get hoses hooked up at the wash-down area and Bettina Overesch (ne Hoy) was one of the first German riders to complete, and she was so overjoyed she reached out to hug her grooms, me, anyone near, with tears of joy pouring down her cheeks.
Yes. At least once in your life, you must do an Olympics.