Final Preparations Underway to Complete World Equestrian Games Show Grounds With Five Days to Opening Ceremony
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
TRYON, North Carolina, Sept. 6, 2018–Final preparations are underway to complete World Equestrian Games arenas for competition and spectators opening in five days and highlighted by spectacular structures for the seventh edition of the combined championships of eight international horse sports that may be the finale of the format.
Well over a quarter billion dollars have been spent developing the Tryon International Equestrian Center with most facilities built as permanent venues to create a legacy of year-round shows for horses and other animals, exhibitions and conventions in sparsely populated western North Carolina with the Blue Ridge Mountains providing a picturesque backdrop.
An armada of flights from Europe in the biggest airift of sport horses in history alng with other flights and trucks from across North America are projected to bring a total of more than 800 horses to the championships of dressage, driving, endurance, eventing, jumping, reining, vaulting and para-dressage beginning next Tuesday, Sept. 11 and running to Sept. 23.
Dressage starts next Wednesday for two days of Grand Prix with 15 nations vying for team medals, six of them able to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo along with Japan that automatically gets a start at their home Games.
The Grand Prix Special for individual medals is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 14 and the Freestyle on Sunday, Sept. 16.
Lofty ambitions collided with months of heavy rain throughout winter and spring, confounding the construction timetable that was already on a short leash as Tryon picked up the WEG with just two years to go after a Canadian group that had been awarded the championships didn’t have the money to see it through.
This WEG is a financial and organizational undertaking hosting championships of the eight equestrian disciplines governed by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI). The initial combined championships launched in Stockholm in 1990 and slated to be held once every four years did not include reining, para-dressage or endurance. Para-dressage was introduced in 2010.
Now, as with the Olympics, they’re considered too costly and unwieldy for any organizing group. The burden on Tryon is greater than the previous six European events where government financial support is a given or Lexington in 2010 where the Kentucky Horse Park is owned by the state whose taxpayers helped fund major rebuilding but still couldn’t make ends meet in the first WEG outside Europe.
An indoor arena that was expanded three-fold from a covered structure will host reining and vaulting–with the competition floor and seating for about 6,000 spectators as well as warm-up rings and stabling all under one roof.
The organizers and the FEI project 500,000 visitors from around the world.
However, unofficial reports indicate ticket sales are not as strong as hoped. As is not unusual, eventing’s cross country will likely draw the single biggest crowd while tickets for dressage at this stage are outselling jumping. Several extraordinarily rich jumping ciruits and series virtually year round have dimmed the luster of the championships.