The long and pot-holed road to WEG 2018

Could Kentucky step up again to host WEB 2018?
Could Kentucky step up again to host WEG 2018?

The World Equestrian Games has it all: drama, intrigue, controversy and down-to-the-wire action.

We’re not talking here about the action in the main arena, but the ongoing efforts to choose a host for the 2018 incarnation of the Games.

Last week, the FEI provided the latest update as the process for selecting a host city entered the next phase.

The casual observer could get the impression that this whole process is looking like something akin to prolonged labour. The midwife has already put in the call to the obstetrician due to unforseen complications.

FEI Secretary General Ingmar De Vos
FEI Secretary General Ingmar De Vos

In June of last year, the FEI announced that five bids had reached “Official Candidate” status: Rabat (Morocco), Bromont (Quebec, Canada); Budapest (Hungary); Vienna (Austria) and Wellington (Florida, USA).

The FEI had received eight expressions of interest by November 2011, but Australian, Russian and Swedish applications were withdrawn before the start of the official Candidate Phase in 2012.

An effusive FEI Secretary General Ingmar de Vos said: “It is fantastic to have five really strong bids for hosting the FEI World Equestrian Games in 2018 and there could be no better endorsement of the FEI’s flagship event.

“The new bidding process that we put in place last year for the FEI World Equestrian Games has generated a huge amount of interest and we now look forward to welcoming the 2018 bidders to FEI Headquarters next month.”

Exciting times.

Then, less than two weeks later, Hungary was gone.

The president of the Hungarian National Federation Vilmos Lázár confirmed in a letter to the FEI that the bid was withdrawn because there were two candidates from the same region, with neighboring Austria also in the running.

The Hungarian federation’s board hoped that its withdrawal would enhance Austria’s chances.

“Of course we are sad to lose the Hungarian bid for 2018,” de Vos said, “but we respect the national federation’s decision and admire its generous support of the neighboring bid from Austria.”

He continued: “We still have four very strong candidates in the mix and it will be a very exciting bidding process. We very much look forward to welcoming them all to FEI Headquarters next month.”

Then, the following month, Wellington, Florida, withdrew.

Equestrian Sport Productions, the company that had put together the US bid, told the FEI that it was officially withdrawing due to a change in local government.

Plans for the Games in Florida revolved around the building of a commercial equestrian complex, but local government councillors were worried over whether the town had the infrastructure to support such a major facility.

De Vos remained chipper. “We are sorry Wellington will not be pursuing their bid, but we have three other candidates that have all put in very strong bids for 2018, so there is still plenty of excitement about the bidding process, and that excitement will certainly be increased when the bid teams come to FEI HQ this week.”

In October last year, Morocco pulled out, sparked by the death of Princess Lalla Amina, who died in August. She had been president of the Fédération Royale Marocaine des Sports Equestres since 1999.

“The sad passing of HRH Princess Lalla Amina has meant that the Moroccans have lost the driving force behind their bid to stage the FEI World Equestrian Games in 2018,” de Vos explained.

“We have two strong bids from Canada and Austria for 2018,” he added.

Then, in January this year, Austria pulled out.

“It is of course disappointing to have lost Vienna as one of our bid cities for the FEI World Equestrian Games in 2018,” de Vos said, “but we are very much looking forward to seeing the presentation from Bromont when the Canadians come to FEI Headquarters in Lausanne …”

Bromont, Canada, was now the last city standing in what had ultimately become a war of attrition.

Its representatives traveled to FEI headquarters in February to give their presentation.

The Bromont bid committee outlined its plans to use the Montreal 1976 Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony, and the Bromont Equestrian Park, which staged the equestrian events in the 1976 Olympics, was offered as the proposed venue for all seven disciplines.

“We’ve had an extremely constructive and positive meeting with the FEI today and it’s provided a good opportunity for us to present and explain our bid to the FEI team,” an upbeat bid committee president, Paul Côté, said.

“They gave us an excellent presentation,” de Vos said, adding that the FEI team was going to be evaluating all the elements and putting together a detailed report for the final decision-making process.

Then, in July, the news broke that the FEI was reopening bidding.

The FEI Bureau, which had the final decision, decided against the bid because the Canadian delegation was unable to provide the full public sector financial support required.

FEI president Princess Haya said the bid was impressive, and the decision not to award Bromont the Games was hugely disappointing.

“But, unfortunately, without the necessary financial support, the FEI and the organisers would be exposed to an unacceptable financial risk.”

The bureau expressed its desire that Bromont remain in the mix with the bidding process reopened, with prospective hosts given until September 30 – three months – to register their interest.

Now, with the chess board looking rather bare, we have two new players potentially in the mix.

Britain is in the frame, but has not yet proposed a host city, and the United States could also host the event, with Lexington, Kentucky – the hosts of WEG in 2010 – and Wellington, Florida, which originally had a bid but withdrew, again a possibility.

Great Britain will have to confirm its proposed host city with the FEI before a November 15 deadline for receipt of Bid Applicant Questionnaires, which will be reviewed by the Evaluation Commission at FEI Headquarters before the candidates are announced on December 2.

This is exhausting stuff.

The World Equestrian Games is a huge event, and it is stating the obvious to say that, as a showcase event on the global stage, everything has been done right.

Yes, bad luck has played a part: the death of a member of Morocco’s royal family scuttled that bid, and Wellington ran into troubles over local politics. Hungary did the neighborly thing in trying to help out Austria’s bid.

One has to hope that this process isn’t too hard; that the effort in staging the Games doesn’t put off future contenders.

The nail-biting action is best left to the competitors, not the administrators.


One thought on “The long and pot-holed road to WEG 2018

  • October 8, 2013 at 1:24 am

    We would love to have WEG in Kentucky!!!!!!!


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