Can horses fly? Well, if they are Olympic athletes they can!
And in one piece of history, 36 of them flew to Japan last night - the first full load of horses to ever land in Haneda, the waterfront airport that serves the greater Tokyo area and which now welcomes an entirely different group of Olympians.
"Seeing these horses arrive at Haneda Airport is a truly historic event, and what makes it even more special is that these are not just horses, they are Olympic horses," said Tokyo International Airport Administrator Takahashi Koji. "It's a really big evening for the airport and especially for the cargo team, and we see it as one of the most important milestones in the final countdown to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo."
The four-legged time travelers are all dressage horses and include some Olympic superstars, including Bella Rose, the mare of the German Isabell Werth, the most highly decorated Olympic equestrian of all time.
Also landed in Haneda and on her way to the breathtaking Baji Koen racecourse owned by the Japan Racing Association is Gio, the ride of double Olympic champion Charlotte Dujardin (GBR), who is aiming for her third title in a row in Tokyo.
The 36 horse passengers fly the flag for teams from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal and the host country Japan, as well as for individuals from Brazil, Estonia, Finland, Ireland and Morocco. And they are joined by another group of horse dressage stars who will fly to Tokyo tomorrow.
The first Olympic flight from Europe took the horses from Liege in Belgium, where there is even a special airport horse hotel, with an Emirates SkyCargo Boeing 777-F to Dubai, where it was refueled for 90 minutes and the crew was changed, and then on to Tokyo.
From a sustainability perspective, Emirates has implemented a number of initiatives to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions where operationally feasible. This also includes the long-established use of flexible routing in cooperation with air traffic control organizations in order to create the most efficient flight plan for every flight. The airline, which operates one of the youngest aircraft fleets in the world, also uses advanced data analytics, machine learning and AI in its fuel monitoring and aircraft weight management programs.
Travel in business class
The horses fly in pairs per pallet or flying stable, which corresponds to business class. Flying attendants and an on-board veterinarian ensure their comfort and safety. And in contrast to two-legged passengers, the horses not only get their meals during the flight (including special meal requests, of course), but can also eat hay or silage during the entire journey, except when they are taking a nap.
So since they are flying business class, does that mean the horses get flat beds to sleep in? Even if horses occasionally allow themselves a little nap in the sun, they actually sleep standing up. They have something called the "standing machine" that allows the tendons and ligaments to effectively block the knees and ankles (in the back legs) so they don't fall over while they doze off. So there is no need for flat beds on the flight.
A total of 325 horses will be flown to Tokyo during the two games. The complex logistics for this huge airlift was coordinated by the transport company Peden Bloodstock, which has been responsible for the Olympic and Paralympic horse transport since Rome 1960 and is the official horse logistics partner of the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), the world association of equestrian sports. Peden Bloodstock became title partner of the FEI Best Athlete Award in 2019.
A convoy of 11 state-of-the-art, air-conditioned horse transporters belonging to the Japanese Racing Association transported today's precious horse freight - and 13.500 kilograms of equipment - on the last transfer from Haneda to Baji Koen, where the horse superstars had the opportunity to meet in their Olympic athletes' village , also known as stables.
"Like all athletes arriving in Tokyo for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the horses are trained and ready to compete on the largest stage in the world of sports," said FEI President Ingmar De Vos. "After all the challenges the world has faced, we are finally almost there, and now it is only a matter of days before we hear these magical words: Let the games begin!"
Haneda Airport handled over 2018 million passengers in 87, making it the third largest airport in Asia and the fourth largest in the world after Atlanta, Beijing and Dubai. After the expansion in 2018, Haneda will be able to handle 90 million passengers a year - not including horses!
Together with Haneda and Narita, Tokyo has the third largest urban airport system in the world, after London and New York City.
Equestrian in Tokyo 2020
A record 50 countries will compete in equestrian competitions at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after new formats were introduced that limit teams to three, meaning more countries than ever will have the opportunity to compete on the Olympic stage .
A total of seven countries will deploy full teams in all three Olympic disciplines, including the host nation Japan. The others are Australia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Sweden, and the United States of America.
Click here for more information on equestrian sports at the Olympics.
Rights-Holding Broadcasters: VNR and B-roll footage from the departure from Liège, the arrival in Tokyo and the EQP location are available for download on Content +
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Original content by: FEI, transmitted by news aktuell