Five Cities Named as Official Bidders for 2018 World Equestrian Games

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Global Dressage Festival grounds in Wellington, Florida. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Five cities–Wellington, Bromont, Vienna, Budapest and Rabat–have been confirmed as bidders for the 2018 World Equestrian Games, the world championships of the internatonal disciplines held once every four years as one of the world’s major sports events.

The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) on Monday confirmed the cities that moved on to become candidates from eight expressions of interest. Australia, Russia and Sweden withdrew their applicationsbefore the FEI made its decision.

Under the bidding process, Rabata, Morocco; Bromont, Canada, Budapest, Hungary; Vienna, Austria and Wellington, Florida became official Candidates when they met the April 30 deadline to complete their applications to host the WEG that includes the seven international disciplines–including the Olympics sports of dressage, eventing and jumping included–and para-dressage.

The candidate cities will make their presentations to host the 2018 WEG at the FEI headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, on July 11 this year. Completed legal documentation, including a signed Host Agreement, must be submitted to the FEI by Dec. 15, 2012.

“It is fantastic to have five really strong bids for hosting the FEI World Equestrian Games™ in 2018 and there could be no better endorsement of the FEI’s flagship event,” FEI Secretary General Ingmar de Vos said. “The new bidding process that we put in place last year for the FEI World Equestrian Games™ has generated a huge amount of interest and we now look forward to welcoming the 2018 bidders to FEI headquarters next month.”

As the final stage in the bidding process, the Candidates will formally present their bids to the FEI Bureau at its Spring 2013 meeting, after which the official announcement of the host organisers of the FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018 will be made.

The quadrennial WEG held in the middle of the Olympic cycle are the world championships of dressage, driving, endurance, eventing jumping, vaulting and reining as well as para-dressage.

The first WEG was held in 1990 in Stockholm and since then have been staged in The Hague in 1994, Rome in 1998, Jerez, Spain,  in 2002, Aachen, Germany in 2006 and Lexington, Kentucky in 2010. The 2014 Games are to be held in Caen (Normandy), France in 2014.

Wellington, Florida, is the home of the Winter Equestrian Federation, the world’s largest winter horse show, while Bromont, Canada, was the site of equestrian competition at the 1976 Montreal Oympics.

The Florida bid was made by Equestrian Sport Productions before the local government, the Village of Wellington, withdrew approvals for a new dressage facility built at a cost of $7 million as part of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center that itself has undergone a $25 million rebuilding in the past five years.

If ESP is unable to fulfill pledges it must make to the FEI to provide complete facilities for a WEG this would be a blow to Wellington’s reputation built over 34 years to become the world’s premier winter equestrian destination.

Members of the Village of Wellington council that governs the city of about 55,000 people just 18 miles (30 km) from storied Palm Beach island supported the WEG application when it was proposed two years ago, but were voted out of office this year. One of the first actions of the new council was to reverse approvals for the dressage complex although the horse show organizers shelved plans for a hotel on the same site, a proposal that had divided the community.

Palm Beach County and Florida state sports and tourist agencies as well as hotels and other businesses that would benefit economically strongly supported the application seeking to host WEG.

No outside financing–including taxpayer money–would be needed to stage the WEG at Wellington. Operations and additional capital improvements would be funded from ongoing operations and sponsorship.

Palm Beach International Equestrian Center main show grounds. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The World Equestrian Games bring about a half-million spectators and 5,500 volunteers to watch about 650 athletes and 750 horses competing for world championships in dressage, driving, endurance, eventing, jumping, reining, vaulting and para-dressage.

About 1,600 media representatives from around the world cover the event.

A study commissioned by ESP estimated WEG visitors would spend 60,000 bed nights in South Florida, 25,000 of
them in Palm Beach County for the event in October, a bonus for Florida’s tourist industry that peaks over the winter months. Wellington is close to major tourist attractions including Miami, the Everglades and Disney World, Universal Studios and other major attractions in Orlando, about a 2 1/2-hour drive.

The October date presents weather and tourist issues. The average temperatures are a high of 85 degrees F (29C) and a low of 71 degrees F (21C) and the official hurricane season is June to November. The month is not a vacation period in the northern or southern hemispheres.

A study by Deloitte, commissioned by the FEI, found that the WEG in Aachen, Germany in 2006 had an economic impact of $291 million, $41 million more than Super Bowl XLIV in Miami in 2010. The economic impact of the 2010 Kentucky WEG was put at $233 million.

At the Kentucky WEG, spectator spending was almost $100 million, plus $11 million in team expenditures and $45 million for event management, sponsors, trade stands and the media, according to the Deloitte study.

Another $80 million was spent building new outdoor and indoor arenas and other upgrades at the state-owned Kentucky Horse Park for 2010 WEG.

Most of the capital improvements required at a WEG in Wellington have already been made and were self-funded on an ongoing basis.

With the completion of the new dressage facility that includes one of the world’s largest covered arenas, the only significnt project remaining at Wellington is a course for eventing cross-country and driving marathon.