London’s Royal Chelsea Hospital added to Global Champions Tour
(CNN)What do you get if you cross a retirement home for ex-servicemen with one of the world’s most prestigious flower shows? An international show jumping venue, naturally.
London’s Royal Hospital Chelsea will be added to the list of venues on the Global Champions Tour circuit from next year, and some of the world’s biggest equestrian names will be in attendance.
On August 3, the venue — famous for housing the annual Chelsea Flower Show — will host the international show jumping event for the first time, with the River Thames serving as a scenic backdrop.
Double Olympic gold medalist Nick Skelton, who won the tour title in 2007, will return to the competition after a two-year absence.
“As a British rider I feel it is extremely important that London is on the calendar of a sporting event of this caliber,” he said.
“The Royal Hospital Chelsea would be an inspiring and important location at which to celebrate the success of British show jumping riders and for the ‘grassroots’ of our sport and the many riders around the country.”
Scott Brash, a double GCT winner and gold medalist from the London 2012 Olympics, shared Skelton’s delight at the Royal Hospital Chelsea being added to the tour.
“The GCT is truly global and has done so much for our sport — I’m proud London is on the calendar again alongside the other iconic and unique destinations around the world,” said Brash.
“Having a UK leg of the Championship will be very positive for our country’s show jumping, and will hopefully inspire new generations. I can’t wait to compete there next summer; it’s going to be a very special event.”
The Royal Hospital Chelsea dates back to 1682 when it was founded by King Charles II as a hostel for army veterans. It now serves the same purpose, housing 300 former soldiers from the British army.
About the GCT
The tour has been labeled the “Formula One of equestrian sport” — motors are swapped for horses, and drivers swapped for riders, but the formats of the two events are essentially the same.,
First staged in 2006, it features the best 30 show jumpers from around the world. Each of the 15 stages visit a different venue from around the globe, with points being awarded for placings.
London will join the likes of Doha, Paris, Rome, Miami, Mexico City and Shanghai as a host on the global circuit.
Last season, Rolf-Goran Bengtsson of Sweden pipped Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander to the overall prize after a tense final showdown in Doha, Qatar. Bengtsson bagged just short of $8.5 million, making the GCT one of the most lucrative equestrian events.