Decision on 2018 World Equestrian Games Not Likely Until November

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Tryon International Equestrian Center. © Ken Braddick/dressge-news.com
Tryon International Equestrian Center. © Ken Braddick/dressge-news.com

Sept. 21, 2016

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

A decision on awarding the 2018 World Equestrian Games has been put off by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) most likely until November leaving a prospective organizer of the showcase event of global horse sports well under two years to prepare.

Tryon International Equestrian Center in North Carolina and Šamorín, Slovakia were, a FEI spokesperson said, still under consideration as contenders to host the Games that are typically held August/September.

The FEI Bureau, the decision-making body of the international horse sport governing entity, was reported to have placed the issue on its agenda for a meeting to be held at the same time as the General Assembly in Tokyo Nov. 19-22. The FEI did not confirm this but said, “The date for confirmation of the allocation has not yet been set.”

Bromont, Canada in July pulled the plug on its organization of the 2018 Games after two years of unsuccessful efforts to raise funding to host the world championships of dressage, driving, endurance, eventing, jumping, reining and vaulting as well as para-equestrian that are held once every four years midway between summer Olympic Games. They were scheduled for Sept. 11-28, 2018.

An inspection of the Tryon show grounds was made last week by Tim Hadaway, FEI director of Games & Championships. FEI officials were also present last week at the world endurance championships staged at Šamorín.

Both show grounds are newly constructed and rated by many riders as among the best in the world.

Tim Hadaway, FEI Director of Games and Championships. © 2015 FEI/Germain Arias-Schreiber
Tim Hadaway, FEI Director of Games and Championships. © 2015 FEI/Germain Arias-Schreiber

The bid by Tryon, a 1,600-acre (650Ha) show grounds on which about $100 million has been spent over the past two years, was backed by the U.S. Equestrian Federation that made it clear it believed the championships should remain in North America. Except for Lexington, Kentucky in 2010 the previous six championships have been held in Europe since their creation in 1990.

Tryon earlier this month staged the American Eventing Championships of almost 700 horses on a cross country course newly created by Mark Phillips, hosted its second CDI3* this year and wrapped up four weeks of CSI summer series that filled the 1,200 permanent horse stalls.

Management of Tryon in the eastern foothills of the Great Smokey Mountains is the same for the 12 weeks of the Winter Equestrian Festival of jumping and Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida, the Colorado Horse Park and the Central Park Horse Show in New York.

Šamorín, also newly built on 225 acres (90Ha) around a race track about 30 minutes from Bratislava and an hour from Vienna was designed by Arno Gego of the Aachen, Germany, School of Art & Design. The organizers already planned to bid for the 2022 WEG before Bromont was scuttled.

Šamorín show grounds
Šamorín show grounds

The world championships of endurance, a passion of owner Mario Hoffmann, were staged there last week with 136 horses and riders including 23 teams starting (a total of 47 horse and rider combinations completed the 160km/100 miles course). Four CSI jumping events and a CDI3* dressage show have been held there this year. The venue includes three grass and two sand arenas, an all-weather race track, 600 permanent horse stalls, plus two hotels and a conference and education center.

The FEI is faced with deciding whether to go ahead with the 2018 Games, split the disciplines between different cities or skip the combined championships until the next cycle in 2022. In a bid to heighten interest and cut costs, the FEI is looking at scheduling future World Games over 10 days instead of the 18 allocated for Bromont.

From the first World Games in Stockholm in 1990 with six disciplines and a total of 37 countries participating, the flagship event has evolved into what the FEI’s Tim Hadaway described as “a huge logistical and financial challenge.”

The only other occasion a city awarded the Games pulled out was Dublin that was to host the 1998 WEG, but when financing fell through in July, 1997, Rome stepped up and organized championships of dressage, driving, eventing jumping and vaulting for a total of 382 participants from 42 countries in October, 1998. Endurance with 175 participants from 38 countries was staged in Abu Dhabi.

Isabell Werth on Gigolo won individual gold and led Germany to team gold at the 1998 World Games in Rome. © Kit Houghton/FEI
Isabell Werth on Gigolo won individual gold and led Germany to team gold at the 1998 World Games in Rome. © Kit Houghton/FEI

By the time of the WEG at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington in 2010, it had grown to include reining as well as para-dressage, swelling participation to 632 athletes and 752 horses from 58 countries in the first event outside Europe.

At Normandy, France in 2014, the totals grew even more to 884 athletes and 1,243 horses from 74 nations at events spread over seven competition venues, some widely separated from the main stadium.

Operating budgets for both Kentucky and Normandy were about $80 million (€72 million), raised by the organizers over four years.