Planning for Smaller World Games in 2018 — Part 1 of 2

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The site of the 2018 World Equestrian Games where horse sports were staged at the Olympic Games in Montreal in 1976.
The site of the 2018 World Equestrian Games where horse sports were staged at the Olympic Games in Montreal in 1976.

Oct. 20, 2015

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Plans for the 2018 World Equestrian Games provide for seating for 19,000 spectators in the main arena for dressage and jumping making the showcase of international horse sports in Bromont, Canada possibly the smallest in the 28-year history of the championships.

Current planning details provided by the International Equestrian Federation(FEI) shows the event will be staged in four main competition venues–the biggest the 19,000-seat main stadium and the smallest able to seat 1,500 people for the Games scheduled for Aug. 11-26, 2018.

Approval in principle was recently given by the Bromont town government for a permanent indoor arena seating 4,500 to 5,000 spectators to be used for reining and vaulting that will be a legacy of the Games, held once every four years since their creation in 1990.

Aachen, Germany in 2006 became the biggest–and most successful–of the world championships that have grown to include the Olympic disciplines of dressage, eventing and jumping as well as driving, endurance, reining and vaulting plus para-dressage. Its main stadium was expanded to accommodate 40,000 spectators. The centerpiece stadium at Kentucky four years later could seat up to 25,000 while the soccer stadium used for dressage and jumping in Normandy in 2014 held 20,000 spectators.

“The primary considerations for determining the number of seats around each competition arena are the anticipated market for spectator ticket sales and any limitations set by the size of the field of play.” the FEI explained. “The final numbers are agreed between the Organizing Committee and FEI, but it is the FEI’s clear objective to have as many spectators as possible at the Games.”

Detailed venue planning is still underway and… “this to some extent will determine final spectator numbers due for example to the use of temporary seating at a number of the competition arenas.”

The reduced size of the World Games was foreshadowed at the FEI Sports Forum in Lausanne, Switzerland last April that pointed to the widely separated events at Normandy and some other of the combined championships as negatives.

The FEI described the event as having “evolved into a huge logistical and financial challenge” and said the “multiple venues had amplified complexity and stretched financial and human resources, occasionally resulting in the loss of the original concept of uniting the equestrian family.”

However, the 2018 Games will remain at 15 days and not be reduced in length, as suggested by some stakeholders to maintain spectator and media interest in horse sports governed by the FEI.

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Like Aachen and Kentucky, all of the sports will be within the same complex in Bromont that is in a relatively lightly populated but spectacular forested mountain area that was the site of 1976 Olympic equestrian events but is known mostly for skiing.

However, the rural nature of Bromont also presents a major issue–the distance of almost 60 miles (96km) from Montreal where most spectators will have to stay to Bromont that typically takes at least an hour.

The FEI reports the organizing committee known as COJEM, the acronym for its title in French, is seeking to arrange a fleet of buses to carry visitors from pickup points in Montreal to take them to a location about four miles (6km) from the Games grounds.

Under this plan, visitors will transfer to other vehicles to be shuttled to one of the four competition venues.

The same will be done in reverse after the day’s competitions.

Riders and direct national team support will be put up in hotels that the organizers are currently locating and describe as “within 40-45 minutes of the venue.”

To save a significant amount of time and reduce traffic, organizers are exploring the use for WEG buses on dedicated commuter lanes on the main Montreal-Bromont highway and seeking to establish a drop-off roundabout at the show grounds instead of the off-site transfer.

Part 2: World Equestrian Games 2018 by the numbers