Games of the XXVIII Olympiad

Athens (GRE) 13 August - 29 August 2004

In 2004 the Olympic Games returned to Greece, the home of both the ancient and the first modern Olympic Games.

The Games Come Home

For the first time, a record 201 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) participated in the Olympic Games and the popularity of the Games soared to new heights as 3.9 billion people had access to the television coverage compared to 3.6 billion for Sydney 2000. The equestrian facilities at Markopoulo were extraordinary. Two stadiums were built, one housing a grass arena for Jumping and one with an all-weather arena for Dressage, offering a total of 20,000 seats. In addition, there was a 20x60m covered arena, a 500m racetrack and eight training areas.

Equestrian Controversies

Despite the incredible facilities and the friendly atmosphere, the 2004 Olympic Games will, unfortunately, be remembered for the major controversies which affected the equestrian events.

German Eventing rider Bettina Hoy (Ringwood Cockatoo), who was a strong contender for gold both individually and as a member of the German team, circled after going through the start in the Jumping phase. A timing error in the Judges’ box and the decision of the Appeal Committee, subsequently overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), had a major impact on the outcome of the team and individual events.

There were also four positive cases, involving Waterford Crystal, ridden by the individual Olympic jumping champion Cian O’Connor (IRL), Goldfever 3, a member of the winning German jumping team with Ludger Beerbaum, Foxy XX, the mount of the Austrian Eventing rider Harald Riedl, and Ringwood Cockatoo ridden by Bettina Hoy.

Not surprisingly, the positive cases had a negative impact on the image of the sport. In its decisions, the FEI Judicial Committee expressed the opinion that “these cases highlighted the desirability of the FEI to revisit its entire medication policy in order to distinguish between legitimate treatment used to assist the welfare of horses before and during competition and medication which is used in order to enhance performance and gain an unfair advantage in competition or treatments which endanger the horse’s welfare.”

Fun Facts

  • The shot put events were held in Olympia, the site of the ancient Olympic Games.

  • The archery competitions were staged in the same Panathenaic Stadium that was used for the 1896 Olympics.

  • The marathon races followed the same route as the 1896 race, beginning in Marathon and ending in Athens' Panathenaic Stadium.

Games Facts & Figures

  • 10625
    (4,329 women; 6,296 men)
  • 201
  • 28
  • 45000
  • 21500

For the first time the FEI organised special Olympic selection trials in Aachen in June 2003, open to countries from Asia, Africa and Oceania. Thirty-eight riders from 12 countries competed in the event. Japan, Korea and New Zealand gained Olympic qualification as teams; in addition one individual slot apiece went to Egypt, Jordan and Australia and two to Saudi Arabia.

At the 2004 Games, Cian O’Connor aboard Waterford Crystal won the individual Jumping title and became an instant national hero, being the only Irish medallist that year. However, on 8 October 2004, it was announced that the horse had tested positive for the prohibited substances fluphenazine and zuclopenthixol, human antipsychotic drugs. After a six-month procedure during which elements of the B sample were lost and documents stolen from the offices of the Irish Equestrian Federation, the FEI Judicial Committee disqualified O’Connor from all the competitions of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, imposed costs of CHF 5,000 and suspended the rider for a period of three months. As a result, the individual gold medal was awarded to second-placed Rodrigo Pessoa of Brazil and the Irish team took 10th and last place.

For the teams, Germany was awarded gold, followed by USA in silver medal position and Sweden with the bronze. However, a second positive case in the Jumping events involving the horse Goldfever 3, ridden on the winning German team by Ludger Beerbaum, with the detection of the prohibited substance betamethasone, a glucocorticoid steroid with anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties, leading to a redistribution of the medals. In December 2004, the FEI Judicial Committee determined that there had been a breach of the FEI General Regulations, although it did acknowledge that the medication administered to the horse was for a legitimate skin irritation. The combination was disqualified from all competitions at the 2004 Olympic Games and a fine of CHF 1,500 and costs of CHF 750 were imposed. In February 2005, Beerbaum lodged an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) which was dismissed. As a result, Germany dropped from team gold to bronze, and the gold medals were awarded to Team USA at a ceremony held in February 2005 in Palm Beach, Florida.

Following complaints and issues with the grass footing in the Jumping arena, the FEI put in place an inquiry committee composed of footing experts which concluded that the footing in Athens had been acceptable but had not been of the standard required at an Olympic Games.

Germany’s Olaf Petersen was the first course designer in history to officiate for the second time at an Olympic Games. His first involvement had been in Seoul in 1988.

Of the four horses which had dominated the Dressage competitions in Sydney 2000, only the Latvian-bred Rusty ridden by Ulla Salzgeber, was still active. Bonfire and Gigolo had been retired after 2000 and Farbenfroh, Nadine Capellmann’s 2002 world champion horse, after being out of action for 18 months, was not in Olympic form.

Anky van Grunsven and Salinero took gold with a memorable performance. The silver went to the 2003 European champions Ulla Salzgeber and Rusty, and Spain’s Beatriz Ferrer-Salat took the bronze with the 17-year-old Beauvalais.

New Dressage tests had been introduced in 2003. The Grand Prix lasted five minutes 40 seconds, with 32 movement marks and four collective marks for a maximum of 480 points. The Grand Prix Special was seven minutes long, and comprised 36 movement marks and four collective marks for a maximum of 500 points and the length of the Grand Prix Freestyle to Music was between 5½ to six minutes.

Germany won its 11th team gold medal. Of the 17 Olympic Dressage team competitions held from 1912 to 2004 – there were no team placings in 1912, 1920, 1924 and 1960 – the Germans won 11 of the 14 they contested.

In November 2000 the FEI came up with a new Olympic format for Eventing: there would be a maximum of five riders per country in the team competition with the best three scores counting for the team medals. The top 25 individuals after the team competition would take part in a second Jumping competition. The resulting scores would be added to the overall scores to determine the final individual placings.

The FEI also tackled the question of the A-B-C-D phases of endurance day, under criticism because of its considerable needs for land and officials. After lengthy discussions, the two roads and tracks (A + C) and the steeplechase (B) were abolished, leaving only the cross country (phase D).

Germany’s Bettina Hoy had been in second place after the cross country behind Nicolas Touzaint of France. Going into the jumping phase, she inadvertently crossed the starting line twice before beginning her jumping round. Due to an error in the Ground Jury’s box, the stadium clock had been restarted when she had crossed the starting line for the second time and she finished her round with one knockdown and two time penalties securing team gold for Germany. However, lengthy discussions ensued on this false start, and the Ground Jury decided to penalise her with 14 time faults for exceeding the time allowed. The German Equestrian Federation appealed the decision of the Ground Jury and the Appeal Committee decided to remove the time penalties based on fair play and in the best interest of sport as the rider had no way of knowing that her round had already started. The gold medal was awarded to Germany, silver to France, and bronze to Great Britain.

The leader, France’s Nicolas Touzaint, had a disastrous round in the second jumping test counting towards the individual placings. He scored 19 penalties which dropped him to ninth place while Bettina Hoy, with only six points, took the lead and was awarded the individual gold medal.

The National Olympic Committees of France, Great Britain and the USA then appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) which ruled that the Appeal Committee had no jurisdiction to deal with the appeal lodged by the German Federation. This put Bettina Hoy back from first to ninth place and the German team from first to fourth. Thus Germany had to give back its gold medals which consequently went to France (teams) and Great Britain’s Leslie Law (individual). In accordance with IOC procedure, the medals were returned by the respective National Olympic Committees to the IOC and the FEI redistributed them during dedicated ceremonies.

In addition to this, Hoy’s horse Ringwood Cockatoo, tested positive for the prohibited substance hydroxy diphenhydramine, an antihistamine contained in a cream used for treatment of lumps on the horse’s back. During a hearing held in December 2004, the FEI Judicial Committee was presented with testimony by the German Team Veterinarian who had been given verbal approval by a veterinarian in the Olympic Veterinary Clinic. The Committee considered that the administrators of the Olympic Veterinary Clinic had not provided appropriate information to the German Team Veterinarian and concluded that it would make no finding against Bettina Hoy. No sanction was applied.

A second Eventing positive case involving the horse Foxy XX, ridden by the Austrian Harald Riedl, revealed the presence of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug flunixin, which was prohibited in competition by FEI rules. The FEI Judicial Committee disqualified the combination from the 2004 Olympic Games and imposed a fine of CHF 1,000 and costs of CHF 1,750. In May 2005, Riedl appealed the Judicial Committee’s decision to the CAS but the appeal was dismissed.

Jumping Individual Medallists

Dressage Individual Medallists


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