What Olympic horses meant in other parks

By Rebeca Oliveira and John Ruch/Gazette Staff

With Boston’s Olympics committee proposing Franklin Park as a venue for horse events, the Gazette looked at the major impacts equestrian events had in other Olympic parks.

The 2012 London Olympics horse events shuttered a public park for a full year. A Friends group later reported that, as a tradeoff, the park eventually appeared to be “in better condition than before the Games.”

The 1996 Atlanta Games avoided major neighborhood impacts by custom-building horse facilities in a new park—more than twice the size of all of Franklin Park—located far outside the city.

Franklin Park currently has no horse tracks, so cross-country and jumping courses, as well as an arena, would have to be built in the park somewhere. It is unclear where that would be in the heavily wooded park, whose main open space is a golf course.

Franklin Park is also home to the city zoo, a state hospital and a homeless shelter. The park does have a small stable housing the Boston Park Rangers Mounted Unit horses.

Before the 2012 London Olympics, residents organized a protest movement against using Greenwich Park for the horse events. Their concerns included shutting the public out of the park, traffic impacts, and damage to the grounds and trees. But Olympic organizers moved ahead and used the site over protests. They used a temporary arena that was dismantled after the Games.

British press reports show that some of those fears came true. Six months after the Games ended, 45 acres in the park’s most popular area were a fenced-off “mud bath,” the London Daily Telegraph reported.

The website of Friends of Greenwich Park reported after the Olympics that “for those who live in the area…there was disruption and restriction of access to the park for a significant time.” However, it said, “scare stories” about permanent damage to grass or trees were proving untrue. The park did require massive restoration work.

The most recent U.S.-based Olympics horse facility is the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers, Ga., about 25 minutes outside of Atlanta, the 1996 host city.

Many of the facilities and amenities built for the 1996 games are still in place at the 1,139-acre site. The massive park was built on undeveloped land.

In includes an 8,000-seat arena, five stables, barns and thousands of parking spaces. One necessary facility was a barn for horses kept under quarantines due to their international travel.

Additionally, two large function rooms, comprising over 4,500 square feet of space, served as merchandise stores during the Games.

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