Rolex Steps Aside at 2018 WEG in Tryon for Good of Sport

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The Rolex-bedecked tower overlooking the main arena at the Tryon International Equestrian Center that will be the centerpiece competition ring at the 2018 World Equestrian Games. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
The Rolex-bedecked tower overlooking the main arena at the Tryon International Equestrian Center that will be the centerpiece competition ring at the 2018 World Equestrian Games. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

MILL SPRING, North Carolina, Nov. 4, 2016–Rolex, sponsor of the Tryon International Equestrian Center and companion horse shows in Florida and Central Park, agreed to step aside to enable the North Carolina venue to host the World Equestrian Games in 2018 with Longines as the official timekeeper.

The FEI–International Equestrian Federation–that owns the WEG told dressage-news.com Friday that the Tryon organizers had signed a “legally binding agreement” to provide a clean venue for the entire 13 days from Sept. 10 to 23 in 2018 as well as test events and in all communications about the Games.

“As the FEI’s Top Partner Longines is automatically the Official Timekeeper of the FEI World Equestrian Games 2018,” the FEI said.

The Games comprise the championships of dressage, driving, endurance, eventing, jumping, reining, vaulting and para-dressage as the flagship event of the FEI held once very four years midway between Olympics. The FEI awarded the WEG to Tryon Thursday, three months after Bromont near Montreal dropped out.

Rolex signs decorate the show grounds, including the tower overlooking the main “George Morris Arena” that host almost 40 weeks of horse shows a year including two CDIs. The stadium will be center stage for dressage, jumping and those two disciplines of eventing during the World Games.

Longines and the FEI signed an agreement in 2013 for the Swatch Group company based in Switzerland to spend at least €100 million (US$130 million at the time) over 10 years as the official sponsor of events owned by the governing body of international horse sports.
longines logo

The decision was controversial as it cut out Rolex that had been a sponsor of top horse sports for more than a half century. Rolex remains a major sponsor at some of the world’s premier show grounds, including Palm Beach International Equestrian Center that hosts the Global Dressage and Winter Equestrian Festivals, Central Park Horse Show in New York, The World Equestrian Festival CHIO in Aachen, Germany, Geneva CHI and Spruce Meadows in Calgary, Canada as well as Tryon.

Mark Bellissimo, who heads up the group that owns Tryon, told dressage-news.com that he flew to Geneva to meet with Rolex to discuss the WEG bid.

“They made the decision in the best interests of the sport and of our relationship that they would support a clean venue,” he said. “This was a magnanimous gesture on their part.

“Rolex thought it was a great opportunity for the sport and for the United States and their decision was that they would support us as a partner as they felt it would be great for the community as well as the sport.”

Isabell Werth of Germany and the winner of 10 Olympic dressage medals, more than any other equestrian, is a Rolex Testimonee.