Saturday, August 23, 2008

Wrap up

well, a couple of nights off and we are getting ready to come home. We finished the Games with another typhoon! Bigger than the first one! Level 9, with wind up to 90mph and heavy rain...we were secluded in the hotel for a day and night,,,,,and the poor people who were supposed to go home on Friday, had to wait a full day, depending on where they were headed. Most of them got out today (Sat) and I will be coming home on Monday, after one more day of sightseeing..I booked a few extra days, in case we couldn't do anything during the competition. Turns out we were able to do a lot during the days, since we worked at night. I am off for my final day (Sun) to see the Buddah on Lantau island...appropriate for a Sunday, I would think. The whole area is cleaning up after the storm..trees down, power lines too, and lots of debris everywhere. The poor people who went to the airport on Friday morning, had to stay there after the typhoon hit, because all public transportation shut down....they take these things very seriously, as they should, and do not come out. Luckily, at the stables, the horses are all tucked up inside safe and sound, and things were A-OK for them. Some horses got out on the early am flights, but many did not even go to the airport once the flights were shut down. Even the incoming flights were cancelled...imagine that mess. When I came over we had to wait 4 hrs to take off, since the storm was arriving in HK when we were in the is just like shutting down O'Hare, or Dulles, or Denver, during a winter storm....the whole world is affected!

I will be sending a final blog probably when I get home, so look for it in the next few days.. My Olympic announcing debut was a great success, I am very proud to have done a great job, had a lot of fun, and even made an appearance or two on world wide television. Yeah home team!! I hope I get the chance again, and many of the new friends hope so too. Dear Great Britain...experienced USA Olympic announcer would love to come over and help out.....

See you back Stateside.....Brian

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Me doing one of my course walks on the telescreen, and one of the dragon jump, final round. Not too bad walking the course while all the riders are walking around me too! Great fun...

Canada and Sweden and USA!!!


The show jumping world was introduced to the very first CANADIAN medalist in equestrian competition…Eric Lamaze and Hickstead topped the world in a gold medal jump off, after 5 days of competition, and 5 rounds, plus the jump off , of excellent horsemanship and craftsmanship. He put in superb rounds throughout and deserved the gold. He came into the individual round with "0", went clear in the first and second rounds, and then went clear and fast in the jump off. This wonderful stallion , who has been jumping so superbly all year, especially down in Florida, is truly a superstar. Eric gave him tremendous rounds all week, and in the end only had one rail down, in 6 trips! It is awesome. Molsens all around… may know that CN is a major sponsor of show jumping in North America, well, it now takes on a new mantra.....CANADA NAILS-IT! Please pardon the grammar!

Our own Bezzie Madden and McLain Ward put in super rounds too, to get into a 12 horse jump off for the bronze….(I think I have the correct number)…anyway, the jump off for the bronze was tough and full of speed and power. Meredith and Shutterfly(GER) put in a super fast clear round with a time of 35.37,,she sped around the final turn, to a big oxer, and then galloped into the last vertical wall, and cleared it faster than anyone else. Rodrigo Pessoa(BRA), was going fast and clear , and then one down cost him 4, but he was just outside the time. McLain and Sapphire came in next, and blistered their way around, including jumping a decorative brush/tree area (not on course) which shortened their turn into the next jump. The crowd went wild when this short cut actually gave him almost 2 seconds up on Meredith, but a little too fast into the last wall, and they hit quite hard and took down about three levels of the top and rider were perfectly fine, but 4 faults and just .02 out of the lead. Then Beezie came in, jumped a fantastic round, short cut included, and beat the time in 35.25. Artistry, power, and superb coordination, put Beezie and Authentic onto the bronze medal podium. Team USA finished the 2008 Olympics with a silver individual (Gina Miles) in eventing, a gold team (show jumping) and Beezie with the individual bronze in show jumping. The grand master himself, George Morris, our commander in chief for the jumping team was beaming! His leadership has been monumental, and so helpful to a team of some of the best show jumpers we have ever fielded. No offense to our wonderful 1984 Gold medal team from LA-----it has just been that long since we have had such a wonderful and positive experience watching our superstars. They really earned these medals. So final results: Eric –gold, (Can)…Rolf-Goran Bengtsson silver (SWE), and Beezie Madden,bronze (USA)

HOWEVER….the day was not without controversy…….we got to the competition arena, to find out there was an immediate press conference due to start. Apparently, four horses came up positive in drug testing and were being disqualified. One was from Germany, one from Brazil, one from Ireland, and one from Norway. All came up positive for the substance, Capsaicin, which is a compound made from chili peppers, which when applied to a horse's front legs, causes heat(pain) and also acts as a pain reliever. This substance has been banned all year (red flag from the Federation – i.e. we will be looking for this…) but these individuals were caught with positive results from tests. Here in HK, where there is one of the three TOP medical labs for equestrian drug testing in the world, one would assume that you would not try to break the rules. Now there is the test on the "b”"(second samples) still to be verified……but, one German and one Irish horse, both countries who were penalized and stripped of their medals four years ago, came up positive AGAIN. And the Norwegian horse who came up positive will probably cost Norway their first EVER medal in equestrian sports (bronze jumping). WHAT WERE THEY THINKING???? All of this will be dealt with in the coming weeks, but still, a bit of a black cloud on the jumping discipline, especially after the fiasco of 2004, when 2 medals, team and individual golds, were both stripped of their winners because of banned drugs.

Now , the is the OPINION section: I am going to jump into big water here, but I don’t care…..people can say what they think....just like I am about to do:

What makes a team member or coach or vet or whoever, think they can get away with this? Do you not think that you are under a very big microscope here? And by your actions (GERMANY and IRELAND) you have been busted TWICE now…..should they be allowed to continue doing this without harsher penalties? They are putting a big stain on the rest of the clean, and hardworking athletes, horses, owner, officials, volunteers, and participants…it is not fair to allow this to continue. Yes, there is a price...but after two times… should be much more severe. It really shows how poor "sportsmanship" and "horsemanship" really are presented to the world…especially to our young riders, pony clubbers, and up and coming equestrians…is cheating the only way to get medals? NO…just look at Gina, Beezie, Ashley, McLain, Amy, Anky, Steffan, etc. Don't let theses busted riders spoil the day…they don't deserve it. Now, if their "b" samples come up clean, and they are vindicated, I will write another apologetic response…but till that time,…."what the h… were you thinking?"

OK, almost done….another bum idiot almost ruined the day. Just as we started the jump off, a man jumped over the fence, onto the field and took off his shirt to advertise some stupid .com site…he had a tutu on and "cantered" around the course, while the first rider was waiting for the bell to start. Unfortunately, the security staff did not jump to action, and after almost 30 seconds or so, some of the stewards started to jump the fence and tried to get this moron. I was running down the stairs trying to call the police onto the course, but they were afraid to break some sort of protocol. The crowd laughed a bit…but I only wish us Americans, who didn't get the chance, had gotten to the SOB….we wanted to tackle this guy so bad and pound him into the sand! He also looked like a fat was awful, embarrassing to the Chinese, and bad for the competiton. Luckily the cameras did not show him on the jumbotron…. They finally escorted him off..too bad we couldn't catch up with him and have a further "discussion" (and I am NOT a violent person, as you all know....)

Well, enough for tonight…..2:30 and going strong. We are under a typhoon warning again…scheduled for tomorrow morning…very strong winds and heavy rain is due..we think that all the poor people who are scheduled out tomorrow will be delayed and may not be able to travel…that will be a pity if all of this is true. The warning will be raised soon, if it gets upon us. Funny, we started the Games with a typhoon two weeks ago, and will now end it with one too. When these storms hit, the whole area shuts down, and people just wait it out. More tomorrow from our "hideout"!!

Be good,

Brian – Olympic announcer of the Games of the 29th Olympiad, Beijing 2008

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dressage Final - Tuesday

Dressage Final – Anky wins 3rd consecutive gold!!

Yes, history was made tonight as Anky Van Grunsven of the Netherlands, won her third consecutive individual gold medal in dressage..history was made tonight, as no other equestrian has ever done this (I think I am correct here). Her dressage test in the freestyle competition was exceptional…much more balanced, free of tension, and very difficult. Her music, and her movements, were strong, expressive, and very powerful…just like Salinero always is. They were so much better tonight and they got a super high score of 82.4, which gave them a total 2 round score of 78.68…gold for the Dutch. Germany was silver and bronze, with our own USA Steffan Peters a close fourth behind. Isabell Worth and Satchmo had another blow up in the middle of the test, where he actually backed up in a piaffe spot, and almost spat out the bit. He shook his head and really resisted, just like in the GPS the other night….very strange. However, the judges this time did not really mark her down…only one judge gave a lower mark for submission….strange too…but, Isabell was still not going to beat Anky based on what we saw. Satchmo was indeed brilliant and flowing, but Anky really turned up the heat, and had one of her best rides ever. Even in the victory round, Salinero, was calm (er) than normal and they really shone brightly. The crowd went wild when she finished and when I announced here score of 82.4, the place went mad!! Great ending to a lovely competition…the right person won, with no controversy tonight! Once again, the German national anthem was NOT played for dressage…Netherlands rule the night!

Fun music throughout the night too. The Russian rider used Gone with the Wind, NY, NY, as her music, which seemed very different! Her terrific grey stallion got a bit tense and caused her some trouble , but she still finished with a 72. Emma Hindle from GBR put in a super test, riding to the music of the Bee Gee’s…Sat Night Fever and all..and it was really well received by the crowd. Much cheering throughout the night….

Kyra Kirkland used music from Cabaret, including the opening song, with Joel Grey singing…terrific entrance for the 6 time Olympian. Heike Kemmer from Germany, who was challenging our own Steffan for the bronze put in a hell of a test , riding to a Beach Boys medley. She got a 71.98 and a big send off from the fans..they loved the music. Courtney King Dye on Mythilus for USA put in a strong effort and it was very clean, but the music seemed rather tame, compared to the others. I had seen this piece back during the selection trials, and it was good…and certainly a change from her musical tour of Broadway tunes with here other GP horse, Idocus, but here, her more classical music did not really have the punch compared to the others. I am sure she will find new music for the wonderful horse, as he is going to be around for quite awhile for Team USA.

Steffan and Ravel were stars…I mean homerun out of the park stars. I have seen this horse three times since the March qualifier in San Diego at Dressage Affair, and have seen them, climb up the ladder so quickly and brilliantly, that it is truly amazing. He has only been with this horse for under a year, and has taken him to such a level, that we can only wait until they are on the medal podium for USA…..his test was strong, easy to watch, full of expression, technically great, and flowed throughout. With a score of 76.5, just out of the bronze, we have to be really proud of their accomplishments……it was a joy to watch.

Ashley and Pop Art went early in the draw and finished with a 71.45, a regular score for this partnership again. To the music of Disney’s Epcot Fireworks, they put in a lovely ride, but were not rewarded for their much improved harmony and steadiness. I have always loved this piece and feel they deserved better.

And so ends my Olympic announcing, as Nick will do the final jumping on Thurs. I will have more on my stay here , but tonight I have to end this session. Charles Mann took the fun pic of me with the “Olympic Mic Torch” and asked me to include his photo email link, which you must ALL GO TO…..I promised him. Thanks everyone, and I will see you tomorrow, after our day off (after 13 days)…see you after the beer fest….


LINK: Charles Mann…

Charles has wonderful images and photos…check it out!!!!

Dressage final - Anky does it again

Monday, August 18, 2008



The night was extraordinary – USA and Canada in a jump off for the gold! A North American sweep of the gold , and silver jumping. First time ever!! Norway was bronze, their first ever jumping medal (from what they tell me)…it was a night to remember. After all the bad and unfortunate events for our 3 day squad, and the dressage squad. We truly have something to cheer about. The USA wins back to back Olympic gold (2004 – Athens, and now 2008 Bejiing!). The course was huge and very demanding, and again, the water jump caused the most problems – it was over 4 meters wide, and tonight it was followed by 5 strides to a very short (23 foot ) in/out of maximum vertical rails! That is the combination with the very ornate dragons on the posts that I have included in the pics. A big course, only 5 clear rounds out of 48+….but the medals came down to the very last rider of the night, our own Beezie Madden. After last night, when she had a refusal, we were all sitting on our seats…..if she went clear , we win the gold outright..if she has a dropped rail, we go into a tie with Canada. All the jumps were clear, but one foot in the water (actually on the landing tape of the water) and 4 were added.. Jump off!!! Ian Millar from Canada, jumped clear in the initial round to put Canada into the lead with our final rider to go. He is competing in his 9 Olympics! 8 + the alternate Games in 1980, when we all boycotted Moscow….and he has never, ever won an Olympic medal. Tonight, he was the star to beat…if we had not won the gold, and Canada had,,,there would still be rejoicing in the show jumping world. Bittersweet tho, because Ian’s wife of many years (decades actually) passed away this past winter and could not be here to see him win the silver…but, we think the angel on his shoulder was actually her. A very special and lovely story….Ian Millar finally getting his medal from the Games.

The heavily favored German team had a bad few days here, and finished just outside the medals. Who’d have thunk? The Aussies were in the hunt for a while, but one of their stars, fell in the warm-up arena and broke his collarbone! No kidding…and right in front of me..I was out in the back and this rider, Peter MacMahon was having a terrible time with his horse in the schooling area. I watched him fighting with his horse for over 10 minutes, just not quite in harmony, and then, they jumped right into the middle of the practice oxer, fell down, and both of them came up injured! The horse was on three legs, and Peter knew right away he was hurt too, as he checked his shoulder , and sure enough, there was the clavicle “parted at the seams”. For those riders who have broken your collarbone (including yours truly) you know what I mean. His horse actually had just stung himself, and after a few minutes trotted out fine and sound. Peter was seen to by the medical team, we gave him a bottle of water , and away he walked (on his own) to be x-rayed by the med staff. Too bad, cuz Australia was in the hunt at that time.

In the jump off, all three USA riders jumped clear: Laura, Will (1st Games), and Mclain - Beezie didn’t have to go cuz we had secured the medal at that time. For Canada, Jill had one down, Eric Lamaze was clear, and then Ian did not have to return as we had just gotten the gold. A wonderful night for the sport of show jumping and we had a sold out crowd who stayed till the very end, and with the medal ceremony, as good as ever, we ended the team competition with our US anthem. Because I did not go to Sydney when David won, and because , in Atlanta, I was only a spectator, not part of the backstage portion, I have never experienced the medal ceremony like tonight. The flags for the ceremonies are raised on poles, right next to our announcing and judging tower. I was literally, right under them as the Stars and Stripes were raised. With my hand over my heart (Cub Scout Pack 894, Den 1 take heed here….) I was so proud of our team as the flags went up! It must be ever cooler to have it raised for you as an athlete….nothing like it!

Gina Miles, our silver medalist from eventing, and our dressage team riders were all in the mix too, with their hats, and flags. Steffan, who may have a chance at a bronze individual tomorrow night, was there as a team supporter! I told him…silver(Gina)… (Jumping team)….ONE MORE TO GO (bronze for him)!!! He told me, see you tomorrow night…to which I replied,,,it will give me great pleasure to introduce you tomorrow night on the PA!! Go USA!!!!!!!!

Side note: We did indeed get to see the pandas this AM…they have a terrific habitat and they, of course, were all asleep, except one, who was eating away! Our pandas in DC are just the same…kind of black and white….interesting……fun to see pandas in their native land, eh? Canadian dialect there…did you get that?

More tomorrow after the freestyles - should be a wonderful night…Ashley and Pop Art get to go first…and she uses the Epcot fireworks music from Disneyworld…I asked her if she wanted me to organize some REAL, NON FAKED fireworks for her opening! She laughed and told me to get it done……

See ya, Brian

Day 13 - GOLD!!!!!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Day 12 Team jumping

Day 12 Show jumping team –round 1

Team USA is tied for the lead after night one….finally our USET is jumping out in front early! Our riders have a team total of 12….three scores count for the results. Mclain Ward got the single clear for us on Sapphire with a tremendously strong performance. This mare was extraordinary with her jumping - really leaping cleanly over the 13 jumps. The course was very big and very beautiful. Lots of wide oxers and as you can see, many different Chinese themes..Steve and Leopardi, the designers , have truly put on one hell of a showcase for these riders. Check out closely, the panels on the vertical… is an artistic design that has a picture of the Great Wall on it…it is truly wonderful.

Laura Kraut with Cedric almost went clear but had one rail down (4 faults)…this horse is lovely and Laura did a very professional job…it is great to see her back on the US team. Will Simpson was next and his horse was very much “in the bridle” and very strong. Two fences down for 8 faults. Then our anchor , and veteran gold medalist, Beezie Madden with Authentic came on board. She was flying over the jumps, I mean way over these 5’ + fences (1.5 meters) and seemed headed for our second clear, when coming into the final triple complex, Authentic started shaking his head very roughly, and they refused, or had a disobedience..very, very unusual for this pair. She turned away, and came back for the second try, got into the combination, had another rail down, and then went on to finish..8 jumping and 3 time faults. Very unusual and so “not” Authentic…they turned out to be the drop score, and the US is now in the lead with 12.

Canada is tied with 16 along with Great Britain. The superstars of England Nick Skelton had 8, Tim Stockdale had 4, Ben Maher had 4, and John Whitaker, unfortunately had to withdraw…bad break for the British team, as it make look like he will not go tomorrow either. The Canadians are in the hunt too: Mac Cone, with Ole had an uncharacteristic 12, then Jill Henselwood had a tough time coming home with 16 plus 2 time, then Eric Lamaze on Hickstead proved why he should be here for Canada, by putting in one of the only 5 clear rounds of the night. The anchor ,Mr Olympic (8 times!!) Ian Millar was putting in a lovely round, and then had the second to last down…just at the end. He rode so well and he may be in the hunt for an individual medal..he was so good, but just unlucky.

The Germans came out and dropped a lot of rails, including Meredith , who had one down on the powerhouse Shutterfly. Amazed us…..the Germans squeaked into the final round, but we cannot count them out…we all know that. The Swiss, the Dutch, the Norwegians, the British and the Aussies will all go forward. There is another county too, but I am missing one of my result sheets…sorry! Check out the results on the other websites…

The barns are busy all day and night, as many of the event horses have been leaving over the last two days. The Olympic organizers have thing really organized as vans take the horses directly to the planes where they are processed, loaded up, and shipped back home for a well deserved rest. I am sure they don’t look forward to the long plane rides either.

A bunch of us are headed out to Panda park in the morning for a look at the national heros of China. Should be a fun morning…we all (about 20 of us) are renting our own bus for the 45 minute trip, are having lunch over there and will return in the afternoon, to get ready for our 5pm call back at the arena. I’ll send you some more photos tomorrow.


Day 12- Show jumping- team round 1

Saturday, August 16, 2008

11a Dressage Grand Prix Special

Dressage GP Special

Well gang hang on for a great ride tonight…I’ve got it all : from lunch on HK island, to GPS, to superstars at the bar, to superstars on my bus, to superstars hugging and hand shaking the announcer, to big screen appearance #4, to acing the announcing for the GPS, to Tsing Tao in my room/office here at 2am, after a great day. Any questions? Good, you are dismissed, and remember to re read chapter 4 - test on Tuesday…

We started the day with a trip to the Soho district of HK island, the original downtown, where we were taken to a restaurant in the middle of the town, a hole in the wall, by one of the French officials of the Games. He had been here before, and with his French equivalent of the Michelin guide, he took us back to this place. Snake was on the menu – no kidding, and when Jean ordered the first appetizer, we all looked at it, fried something, and we all hesitated as he would not tell us what it was. Turns out it did look like fried snake bits, but it was some kind of pork with a great seasoned batter! Anyway, the food was delicious and the 8 of us (including the chief jumper judge, also from France, two Aussies from the eventing officials squad, the press liason, a Swedish judge, and the US announcer – what a mix, and what a lunch. We had 6 courses, and everything was terrific…the food over here is really good, lots of seafood, and many courses are served at a sitting, small portions, but lots of great food. I have only had one bad meal here, and it was in the canteen at the show. Everywhere else we have had lunch (since we work at night) has been wonderful and tasty!! Took the boat across the HK harbor, after having a beer at the Mandarin Hotel (oh yeah, ritzy as it see we have all these Brits and Aussies trying to relive the late 1800’s – when the Empire still ruled!) and then went on back to get ready for the Grand Prix Special.

Competition was super tonight…Steffen pulled out one of his best rides, on any of the horses I have seen him on. Rates up there with his WEG ride in 2006 on Floriano…I mean Ravel was so balanced, calm, relaxed, and so expressive. Steffen has taken this horse to a new level in just 3 months…he is going to be a medalist very kidding. This horse is the next holes barred. Courtney, also put in one of the top rides of her life……Myth got a little bit spooked just before she entered, but she did one of the best things I have ever seen her do…she stopped, relaxed, and talked to him and then got him back on form. True horsemanship and communication….he soon settled and she got a terrific score of 70.8.. Steffan with his solid 71.8 was guaranteed a berth in the freestyle,,,and Courtney too. They rode back to back too…very unique…..and the two Germans, Heike Kemmer and Isabel Worth did too!..The end of the class was so loaded with superstars and great dressage it was almost too much…….and the British rider, Emmas Hindle, on Lancet ( a horse previously ridden for the Dutch team, I believe) stood her ground and racked up a solid 70.44 to make the top 15 final. Of course Anky and Isabell battled it out for the top 2 spots, with Isabell and Satchmo coming out the best, despite a very strange mishap in one of the passage portions….Satchmo resisted, backed up , almost out of the ring, it was that close, just in front of the judges, and Isabell had to do everything she could to get him back on course. 1’s and 2’s on that movement. She got him back and finished strongly….75.2, even with that big error. Anky and Salinero did a fine test for a 74.96… but I need to go out on a big limb here…..having seen Salinero in video and at the World Cup before, this horse is so full of power, expression, explosiveness, and beauty, yes, but he never seems relaxed or happy…..). Anky has to ride the ….. out of him to get what she needs. But Isabell and Satchmo…it’s is so different..they are full of the same qualities, but the horse is so much more relaxed , and about his business. Salinero, a two time gold medalist , is wonderful….but next to Satchmo, it seems he is so strong and aggressive. So now, to my first sidebar: after each night we go to the small café , just outside the stable entrance, where a couple of Chinese caterers have a small kiosk. We meet there each midnight hour (after work) for a beer and some conversation. Well, tonight, we met up with Steffan, Courtney, Ashley (who made the cut), her husband, and some other officials, grooms, etc. Well, Anky comes out and when the guys locked the door to the café, she was going crazy. Not for a drink, mind you, but for a candybar. She took out of her purse, a pair of small Dutch clogs (keychain size) and waved them at the door, whereupon, they guy opened the door, and she then paid for her candybar. These guys are collecting as many pins, logos, and whatever, from as many teams as they can. So watching Anky weedle her way into the café was real treat! Then she comes over to talk to us, and when one of our British friends asks here if she is planning to go to England in December for their big dressage show at Olympia..she said” I was not planning to go to that show again, but because he (Salinero) was so full of himself tonight, I may MAKE him do that show!! Just to hear her say that was a real treat….and it verified my observations…he was more than a handful ….but he is still in the hunt! The elite gold medalist as a real down to earth and funny lady….many will never see that side of this champion… was fun.

Then I got on the bus to go home, and was told we had to wait another 20 minutes before departure..(pain in the …, at 1:30am). So who then gets on the bus with her coach, but the leader and gold medalist from Germany, Isabell Worth. Yes, folks, it don’t get any better than this…..she , however, was not looking for any chocolate bars….just a quicker ride home, like the rest of us. Anyway, enough of this name dropping…OK!

Team jumping tomorrow – 1st round (and me doing another Jumbotron course walk – apparently they all love it). Dressage is off til Tuesday night for the freestyles..jumping for the next 2 nights.

The pics are Ashely Holtzer and Pop Art for Canada, and downtown Hong Kong….

See ya, Brian