Spectacular opening for World Equestrian Games

September 26, 2010

The Kentucky Horse Park was abuzz at last night's spectacular opening ceremony for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.


Muhammad Ali makes a rare, special appearance at the opening ceremony of the Games. © Dirk Caremans


Princess Haya arrives at the opening ceremony. © Kit Houghton/FEI


© Kit Houghton/FEI

The opening ceremony brought audiences to their feet throughout the program with hundreds of talented equestrians, singers, dancers and an orchestra all coming together in tribute of the Games' debut in the United States. Throughout the nearly three hour show, performers - both two-footed and four-footed - created memorable moments that honored the reason for the world's convergence in Kentucky - the majesty of the horse.

The athletes who are competing in the eight equestrian disciplines paraded before the packed stands filled with enthusiastic crowds who enjoyed the two and a half hours in which 40 acts took the stage. Kentucky singer Wynonna Judd, opera stars Denyce Raves, Cynthia Lawrence and Ronan Tynan, Sara Lee Guthrie, Cherryholmes and Jazz at Lincoln Centre were some of the other notable performers.

The ceremony featured the traditional parade of athletes from 58 countries, which was made complete moments later by the appearance of "The Greatest" of athletes - humanitarian, global icon, boxing legend, and Kentuckian Muhammad Ali, who rode via convertible around the stadium accompanied by Dr Pearse Lyons, president and founder of Alltech.

A cast of almost 1500 people, and a vast array of equine talent, combined to provide a programme that paid tribute to the arrival of the Games on American soil with scenes from the prairie, Broadway, the Wild West and the Deep South. The show journeyed through the history of man and horse and explored defining moments in US history and culture, beginning with the heritage of Native Americans and a Prayer for All Nations by Lakota chiefs and concluded with a Mardi Gras extravaganza of epic proportions.

From a Thoroughbred race re-enactment to Western roping and riding to a Broadway-style quadrille performed by Freisian horses, audience members were witness to the majesty and versatility of the horse. Other moments offered poignant interplay between horse and human performer, including a stirring West Side Story scene featuring Mario Contreras and the Lexington Ballet.

Equestrian entertainers included Culver Academies, Mario Contreras, Stacy Westfall, Tommie Turvey, Dan James, Vince Bruce, the California Cowgirls, Riata Ranch Cowboy Girls, Eitan Beth-Halachmy and more. Actor William Shatner, University of Kentucky Basketball Coach John Calipari, and Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron made surprise appearances. Following in the tradition of World Equestrian Games' opening ceremonies, a musical score was specially composed for the Games. Dr Everett McCorvey, executive producer of the opening and closing ceremonies, reviewed submissions from composers around the world and selected Londoner Jamie Burton's "World Equestrian Games Fanfare" as the signature piece which was presented for the first time at the opening ceremony with a 100-piece orchestra from the University of Kentucky.

As she declared the Games officially open, FEI President HRH Princess Haya said: "For the first time, the World Equestrian Games have crossed an ocean to bring the best of our sport to another continent. We are witnessing a new beginning that will help spread the magic of horse sport and inspire young equestrian athletes to aim for the top."

Ronan Tynan brought the ceremony to an emotional finale as he was joined in singing "The Impossible Dream" by a Haitian Harmony children's choir organized by title sponsor company Alltech.

• Near the end of the opening ceremony, performer Eitan Beth-Halachmy slumped off his horse, Santa Fe Renegade, as they left the arena. University of Kentucky medical staff responded immediately, and the patient was transported to the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital.

The California-based horseman, who was to hold clinics and perform at the equine village later in the week, is in a critical condition.