Palm Beach International Equestrian Center Prepares Equine Contenders for Olympic Games


The lights went in on Wellington Thursday night to highlight the International Arena that was provided with new footing by the Olympic specialist and is at the heart of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.

In the first test of the lights on eight concrete towers that soar 90 feet above the completely made over arena, seven of the eight staium light foxtures were turned on. The eighth light tower was tested briefly but turned off so as not to draw too much electricity from the generator that was the temporary power source.

Mark Bellissimo, Managing Partner of Equestrian Sport Productions, LLC that operates PBIEC, flipped the switch to turn on the lights for the first time at about 7:40 P.M. John Melnicoff whose company provided the Qualite sports lighting and the concrete towers, said that more testing would be conducted over the next several days to focus the light clusters to eliminate "hot spots" and shadows. The lights, he said, measured between 60 and 70 candlepower at the footing. The coral colored footing provided and installed by Bart Poels of Belgium who is also the 2008 Olympic equestrian footing specialist kept glare to a low level.

The Olympic competitions are scheduled to be held at night because of heat and humidity in Hong King in August.The five U.S. Olympic jumping selection trials are scheduled for Wellington with at least one, the Nations Cup competition in mid-March, scheduled to be held under lights. Ken Braddick who has photographed night classes at several of the world's top outdoor arenas for several years rated the lighting system at PBIEC as equal to if not the best in the world. Major outdoor venues with night classes under lights that this correspondent has photographed extensively include Aachen, Germany, Rotterdam, Rome, Barcelona and Dublin. In Dublin, the lights were installed for other sports and are thought by riders to be positioned too low for jumping.

The light towers in Wellington measure 90 feet above the ground so as not to be in the eyes of the horses and riders as they jump. Initial testing will be to "spread" the light evenly over the competition area, elimination shadows. Even without the tweaking that will go on for the next few weeks, a digital camera reading providing optimal exposure of a speed of about 1,000 at an aperture of f2.8 was obtained at several jumps without the eighth light cluster being turned on. This means that as well as providing excellent lighting for the horses and riders and the spectators, photographs can be obtained without the use of flash.

Bellissimo said that in addition to major jumping events such as the Nations Cup and the Huunter Spectacular that traditionally is held under lights, he plans Grand Prix dressage musical freestyle finals for the International Arena under lights.

A panoramo of the International Arena taken from the side where one of the light clusters was not turned on is shown in low resolution. A second photograph is of Mark Bellissimo near center ring without the use of flash.

Photo Credit - Ken Braddick-HorseSport USA

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