Host City: Athina, Greece
Venue(s): Markopoulo Olympic Equestrian Centre, Markopoulo
Date Started: August 15, 2004
Date Finished: August 18, 2004
Format: Five rider teams. Best three scores to count for the team total. Team/individual competitions held concurrently.
The format of three-day eventing was changed in 2004 with the abolition of the first three phases of the cross-country section. The two "roads and tracks" sections and steeplechase phase were discarded and the main cross-country section was shortened in length although the number of jumping efforts remained constant.
The United States arrived in Athina as reigning world champions, Great Britain were European champions and Germany, France and Australia also had high expectations. The two days of dressage produced a minor surprise with Germany, who had been expected to gain a lead, back in third place. Great Britain and France led the way although only a single penalty covered the first three teams.
The cross-country phase was unusually short of drama, not one member of the four leading nations incurred a jumping penalty and the ability of the French team to keep inside the time limit meant they took the lead. Germany moved into second with the British, Americans and Australians vying for third. The veterinary inspection before the final show jumping consolidated the French lead when a scoring member of each of the German, British and Australian teams were not passed as fit to compete.
The French had a disappointing show jumping phase and the steady performances of the Germans gave them an unassailable lead before the final French rider entered the arena. The final French rider, Nicolas Touzaint, only knocked down one fence for four penalties, a performance that became more important as events unfolded.
For the first time in Olympic history, a second round of show jumping would be used to decide the individual competition but before this could be held the results of the team competition were to be changed and then changed back again. The controversy concerned the German rider Bettina Hoy, television pictures revealed she had crossed the start line, triggering the electronic timing, and then turned full circle and crossed the start line again. After her clear round she had appeared to have helped Germany win the title but the FEI Grand Jury had noticed the infringement and added a further 14 time penalties to the score.
A meeting of the Jury of Appeal was convened after a German protest and "In the interests of fairness" Hoy's score was returned to its' original mark. The judge in charge of the timing had, against the rules, re-set the primary timer to zero when the rider passed the starting beam on the second occasion. An FEI spokesman said that "The change of the result is due to a wrong start procedure, which has been confirmed by the jury." Hoy went on to win a second gold in the individual competition later the same evening.
The French, British and US teams immediately launched an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) concerning the results. On the 20th of August the CAS released their decision; The CAS said the judges' decision should not have been reversed by the FEI because the body had no right to do so. The Jury of Appeal had only the right to make decisions regarding the interpretation of rules and the CAS said it decided that the judges' decision to impose a time penalty on Hoy "was of a purely factual nature, falling within its exclusive jurisdiction." The extra time penalties demoted Germany to fourth position leaving France to take gold ahead of Great Britain and the USA. Bettina Hoy was also demoted from first to ninth in the individual event.