World Equestrian Games History–Usually the Best Sport, Organization Sometimes

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

Nov. 3, 2016

The World Equestrian Games are held every four years in the middle of the Olympic cycle as one of the biggest events on the global sporting calendar and combining eight world championships of dressage, driving, endurance, eventing, jumping, reining and vaulting as well as para-equestrian dressage.

The inaugural Games were hosted in Stockholm, Sweden in 1990 and since then have been in The Hague, Netherlands in 1994, Rome in 1998, Jerez, Spain in 2002, Aachen, Germany in 2006, Lexington, Kentucky in 2010 and Normandy, France in 2014.

Comparisons between the seven World Games that have been held so far–Tryon will be the eighth–are difficult as most have government involvement using different models to calculate costs and benefits. Some include the entire participation of a WEG including 25,000 accredited personnel–athletes and support, officials, volunteers and media, for example–as well as free admission to school children and others in total spectator numbers.

Brief descriptions of past WEGs:

2014 Normandy, France–A record 74 nations with 984 athletes and 1,243 horses participated. Organizers reported 574,000 spectators, but 428,000 tickets were sold for sporting events. Events were widely separated and vendors were located away from the main stadium.

Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro celebrating a gold medal victory at the 2014 World Games. File photo © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro celebrating a gold medal victory at the 2014 World Games. File photo © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

A study for the French institute for agronomic research, estimated the Games provided €368/US$414 million for France, including €102/US$114.8 million to Normandy. The Games made a profit, including covering public funding of €46.2/$52 million.

2010 Lexington, Kentucky–The first WEG outside Europe and the first to include para dressage with a total of 632 athletes and 752 horses from 58 countries. Spectator numbers were put at a total of 419,853 with tickets sold or given away. More than US$100 million/€90 million was spent making substantial improvements to the Kentucky Horse Park to host the Games and an estimated $80 million/€72 million for operations. Economic impact was estimated by a state government study at $201.5 million/€142 million at then exchange rates in direct and indirect spending.

Totilas ridden by Edward Gal at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky where the pair won three gold medals in the last competition for the legendary partnership. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Totilas ridden by Edward Gal at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky where the pair won three gold medals in the last competition for the legendary partnership. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

2006 Aachen, Germany—Aachen was the first WEG since the founding of the combined championships in 1990 to break even. Organizers spent €21.6 million/US$26.6 million at the then exchange rate on operations and €17.7 million/US$22.6 million on capital improvements.
There were 767 athletes from 59 nations in the seven disciplines and more than 570,000 tickets were sold to visitors from 61 nations. There was no para-equestrian.

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–2002 Jerez, Spain–A total of 531 athletes from 48 countries participated in the Games that were funded primarily with government bonds that took two decades to pay off.

–1998 Rome–Rome was a success even though the Italians only had a year in which to prepare after Dublin fell through in similar circumstances to The Hague in 1994 and Bromont a decade later. A total of 382 athlete from 42 countries participated in the six sports held in Rome, while another 175 combinations competed in endurance in Abu Dhabi.

–1994 The Hague–The second WEG was dogged by organizational and administrative chaos and ended in financial bankruptcy. Paris was initially awarded the Games but that project quickly fell apart and The Hague was named. A total of 456 athletes from 37 countries participated in the six sports–reining had not yet been included.

–1990 Stockholm–Stockholm’s 1912 Olympic stadium was the main competition arena for the first event of such magnitude in equestrian sport in modern history. The Games were exceptionally smooth and sponsorship and ticketing revenue surpassed expectations. For the six disciplines at the time–dressage, driving, endurance, eventing, jumping and vaulting 421 athlete from 37 countries participated.