FEI explores modernizing equestrian for Olympics

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FEI explores modernizing equestrian for Olympics

LAUSANNE, Switzerland - The International Equestrian Federation could cut team sizes at the Olympics to create space for more countries.

The FEI will also consider relaxing rider dress codes and using more music in dressage to help attract broadcasters and non-expert viewers.

Ideas to modernize equestrian were aired Monday at an FEI forum discussing Olympic reforms promoted by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.

“We need to get a product that is easier to sell on television,’’ FEI President Ingmar de Vos told The Associated Press.

Bach has promoted the “Olympic Agenda 2020’’ program to make the games easier and cheaper to host and more attractive to young audiences.

Olympic sports such as equestrian have struggled to modernize while keeping their traditional appeal.

De Vos said having more competing countries within an IOC-imposed quota of 200 riders is key to wider television coverage.

“I believe our challenge is to increase the number of flags, to make the competition format more interesting and easier to understand for a wider audience,’’ said the Belgian official, who was elected in December.

At the 2012 London Olympics, 40 nations competed in equestrian’s six gold medal events: individual and team competitions in dressage, eventing and jumping.

After European teams and riders won 16 of the 18 medals in London, the IOC and FEI also want to create more chances for other regions.

One proposal to diversify the lineup is limiting teams to three rider-and-horse pairings. That would also mean changing the scoring system to make all riders count toward the final score and eliminate “drop scores’’ of those collecting the most penalty points.

Currently, team eventing counts only the best three scores from five pairings, and team jumping counts three from four.

“Removing a drop score could bring a lot of additional excitement and drama,’’ De Vos said, acknowledging concern that teams can overcome major errors to win gold. “It is difficult to understand how [at the Olympics] there can be a second chance.’’

The FEI also proposes changing a system that currently allows some qualifying-round performances to count toward individual and team medal standings.

De Vos suggested more easily understood scoring in the future with Olympic medals decided in a single 90-minute televised session. 

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