De Vos admits future of World Equestrian Games uncertain

De Vos admits future of World Equestrian Games uncertain
We may have seen the last of the World Equestrian Games (WEG) as we know them after the most recent staging in North Carolina in September.

That would not be a surprise, given that the mega-event first held in 1990 has had its share of host venue difficulties, and this past weekend saw signals coming from the world governing body (FEI) itself, whose president Ingmar de Vos was reviewing his four-year term before he goes for reelection later this month. “We must take courage to look at the future of our World Championships and ask if the WEG is still the best format,” de Vos stated.

De Vos had already made some soundings in this regard as the September championships came to a close. The alternative is most likely a return to the pre-1990 format of each equestrian discipline having its own world championships.

Whereas we would still promote multi-disciplinary bids, we must ask ourselves if it is still realistic to impose a model integrating all our disciplines in one event,” de Vos continued. “If we want to be successful, we need to have a model that creates competition and can interest a lot of organisers rather than having to fight to find and motivate one organiser for WEG.

There is no queue of bidders for the next staging in 2022. In fact the 2018 games had to be rescued when the intended venue of Bromont in Canada pulled out due to funding difficulties.

Tryon International Equestrian Center in North Carolina stepped into the breach with less than two years in hand. This was not the first time for such to happen - an Irish attempt to host the 1998 event failed and Rome took over, while The Hague took care of the 1994 championships in place of Paris.

The paucity of suitors would surely disappear for most of the equestrian disciplines if there were standalone championships. The burden of staging eventing, show jumping, dressage, endurance (long distance), reining, vaulting, driving, and para-equestrian dressage at one venue has proved daunting and expensive. De Vos, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee, refers to the new IOC initiative to reduce costs for organisers and develop concepts to make bidding to host world championships more feasible.

No official financial figures have been issued after the Tryon staging of the championships but the venue’s managing partner Mark Bellissimo has said he expected a $1.5 million (€1.3m) loss on the $30m (€26.2m) outlay to host the event. This may seem insignificant given that he has invested upwards of $200m into Tryon over the last few years, as he aims for it to become one of the world’s best equestrian venues. There were claims that he was recently seeking to sell one of his other main venues, Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Florida, which hosts the annual 12-week-long Winter Equestrian Festival, but Bellissimo stated that there was “absolutely no truth” in the rumours.

If Tryon is to have been the last all-in-one staging of the world championships, at least it will be remembered fondly from an Irish perspective for the silver-medal winning performance from the eventing team. Cathal Daniels, who was the youngest member, has climbed further up the world rankings in the latest FEI figures which cover the year to the end of October (the WEG gains were already factored in in the end of September standings).

Daniels climbs further from 22nd to 14th place, largely due to his double top-10 finish at the Le Lion d’Angers meeting in France three weeks ago. Ireland’s highest-ranked eventer continues to be Sam Watson who drops one notch to 11th on the list. Padraig McCarthy, who won individual silver as well as the team medal, drops to 19th form 17th. The fourth member of that successful Irish team, Sarah Ennis, climbs two slots to 33rd.

In the show jumping rankings Shane Sweetnam is highest-placed of the Irish, showing in 20th position which represents an upward move of six places. Darragh Kenny is steady at 27th while Bertram Allen moves up one place to 28th. Daniel Coyle remains in the top 30, one place behind Allen.