Rumors Not Swatted Down that Aachen May Pick Up World Games From Bromont

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Front of 40,000-seat main stadium at the CHIO in Aachen. ©  2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Front of 40,000-seat main stadium at the CHIO in Aachen. ©  2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

AACHEN, Germany, July 17, 2016–The failure of Canada to get required government funding to stage the World Equestrian Games in Bromont has sparked a torrent of rumors that Aachen as host of the 2006 championships will be asked to take over for 2018.

However, it was not known how the issue of conflicting sponsorships could be resolved–Aachen is among a a select few world class facilities tied to Rolex while the FEI, the International Equestrian Federation, has a long term agreement with Longines.

It also was not known whether feelers have been put out to other prospective venues if Bromont is unable to continue, such as the Tryon International Equestrian Center in North Carolina.

Tryon was recently built at a cost of about $100 million and lauded by some of the top riders as possibly the best horse show grounds in the world. It, too, is a Rolex complex as is its companion Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, Florida.

Mark Bellissimo, who heads up groups of partners that own both show grounds, would not comment when asked whether either of the facilities would be available. Wellington stages 12 weeks of dressage and para-dressage with about 400 horses for each of seven CDIs three CPEDs and jumping with more than 2,000 horses each week, well over double the number of horses at a WEG.

Frank Kemperman, chairman of the managing board that stages Aachen, the most prestigious horse show in the world with top dressage, driving, jumping, eventing and vaulting every year, was peppered with questions as to whether the organization would consider taking on another WEG.

Frank avoided denying or confirming any of what he said were only “rumors,” although in the past he has stated his preference not to host another WEG but to focus on the annual CHIO that has a lineup of sponsors including Rolex, Mercedes Benz, and Deutsche Bank.

“Let’s hope that Canada will fix it,” he said of the news that the Canadian government had turned down a request for funding for the WEG that was awarded to Bromont, an hour from Montreal that hosted equestrian sports at the 1976 Olympics.

“It will be nice to have it in Canada.”

He is also a member of the executive board of the FEI that owns WEG.

WEG was created in 1990 as a showcase for horse sports but has grown from its initial lineup of dressage, driving, endurance, eventing, jumping and vaulting to include reining and para-equestrian.

The WEG is held once every four years and has had more financial failures than successes though the championships typically produce top sport.

The inaugural event in Stockholm was considered a success on all levels.

Den Haag in 1994 was a financial mess. The 1998 Games was moved to Rome from Dublin when the title sponsor pulled out. The event in Spain in 2002 required such heavy government funding it took 20 years to pay off the taxpayer debt.

The Games here in 2006 that did not include para-equestrian were successful financially and with both organization and sport.

The first WEG outside Europe was Lexington, Kentucky in 2010, that despite a big budget required donations from sponsors and others to keep the lights on and was decried for what visitors described as extortionate hotel room prices.

The 2014 Normandy WEG involved government funding at many levels with events spread over a large area and numerous complaints over treatment of spectators.

Bromont/Montreal was awarded the WEG despite misgivings about the ability of the organizing committee to raise enough money to cover costs or the infrastructure to properly prepare for an event that attracts about a half-million visitors over two weeks.

Bromont was the only bidder remaining after several nations dropped out in the initial round, but was rejected as not being supported by financial guarantees. A second round of bidding led to a similar outcome but the FEI said it was assured funding was in place and gave its approval.

Earlier this year, the latest chief executive officer walked out with five board members because of what they said was frustration over lack of money to get anything done.