Eventing fans were left angry and disappointed at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Normandy (30 August).

Massive queues into Haras du Pin on cross-country day meant many missed out on half of the action on course.

After more than four hours in stationary traffic, many abandoned their cars, walking miles to the event, and some even gave up completely.

H&H has reported many times on grumbles in the run-up to WEG, with fans calling the organisation “farcical”.

Second biggest pic

Fans queued for hours in traffic jams

And troubles did not stop when visitors arrived in France. This week H&H has been inundated with complaints from angry fans about WEG.

Reader Hazel Bailey said it was an “absolute disgrace”. “We were stuck in traffic for six hours,” she told H&H. “About 11km away some people decided to walk. We eventually got there but only saw two hours of competition. We spent thousands of pounds and would have been better off watching it on TV.”

Sue Hatt left at 8.45am for what should have been a 40min journey. She eventually arrived at 12.40pm.

“There were police but they were ineffective as there were too many cars trying to go in one way,” she said.

Many described the traffic as “a joke” and “disastrous”.

H&H reader Ian Denis added:“WEG2014 was the most appalling spectator experience of any major event. FEI wake up.”

Mud and queues

Thick mud, queues for food, dirty loos and a lack of information were also gripes.

It's how deep?

Thick mud was another complaint

As heavy rain continued the eventing site turned to a bog, and there were many complaints about parking and queues for food — with people waiting up to 90min.

“It’s a shame because they are not catering well for the public,” said Annika Digreus from Sweden.
Even riders were horrified.

“We were expecting so much, but it failed to deliver on almost every front,”said H&H columnist Mark Todd.

“We riders probably did better than the spectators — it’s them I feel most sorry for.”

Complaints to organiser

H&H reader Jo Wise said it has put her off attending an event like this again. “With the excellent TV coverage it would have been far more pleasurable — and cheaper — to stay and watch
from home,” she said.

Surely there must be some accountability, either from the FEI for selecting this venue, or the organising committee, for what can only be described as complete shambles for many spectators.”

A spokesman for the FEI told H&H it was “too early to evaluate” as the Games were only halfway through.

“Obviously we know there have been some issues. We have addressed these to the Organising Committee, which is working on resolving them,” she added.

H&H contacted the organisers but had no response.

The main competition site — at the D’Ornano stadium in Caen, which is usually home to football — received more favourable reviews.

Charlotte Barter visited for the dressage on 29 August to see Charlotte win gold.

“The range of trade stands and food is great and the displays were fun,” she said.

However, people also had problems on Sunday (31 August) attending the showjumping phase of the eventing at the venue.

“There were massive disorganised queues of people outside the stadium today waiting to get in; it was like a refugee camp,” said one spectator.

Originally published on Thursday 4 September in H&H magazine

  • Menemsha

    It’s a question of culture. Many of the problems could have been predicted. There would have been insufficient toilets poorly maintained during the day because many events in France simply don’t bother with toilets. Men urinate against any available bush or wall and women avoid drinking or eating much so they can survive without. I saw women from French-registered cars (doesn’t mean they are French of course) urinating between cars in the car park before they walked into the course – because they knew it would be easier than finding a loo on the course (queueing for hours to get in probably didn’t help either!)

    But also a problem of logic. At the showjumping final on the Sunday, the tickets were sold separately for the morning and afternoon sessions so at lunchtime, the organisers wanted the Stade d’Ornano in Caen cleared. To enable this, they closed all the food and drink outlets at 11am. The logic? So that at the end of the morning session, the spectators would walk down to the village and use the food outlets there. This was a 5 minute *drive* from the Stade (minimum) so added to the traffic congestion around d’Ornano and to spectator irritation. And if you were disabled? Well, don’t even go there. Literally.

    However, if – like many – you had tickets for both the morning and afternoon sessions, there was nowhere to get food at Stade d’Ornano at lunchtime without going offsite. The lack of logical thinking behind this was gob-smacking but it was to facilitate things for the organisers not make the event an easy and pleasant experience for the paying spectators.

    I realise both my comments are a bit of a rant but I do love France and do like living here and I’m so sad when France simply cannot produce an event to worldclass standards. It is not the fault of the individuals because I know many people who worked very hard to get the JEM to France and also who donated long hours as volunteers over the period. But the organisation here always lets things down and that’s based on cultural attitudes, particularly towards customers. And, of course, the big thing is: most French people are entirely accepting of it, because what can you do?

  • Si

    Of course, the complaints are all justified. Having lived in France, the real question is why the FEI allowed this important event to be held there? By now we all know the legendary French attitude towards customers, efficiency and foreigners so this event’s standards were predictably low. What can we do? Complaints are not recognised in France and the cheques have been cashed so perhaps a boycott of travelling to French events in the future? There are so many welcoming places to go!

  • Menemsha

    I agree – the cross-country day at WEG / JEM was abysmally organised. But, it was no surprise. France doesn’t cope well with one-off events and nor does it willingly take on board advice from ‘outside’. I’m sure the organisers of 2012 or Badminton or any of the big 3 day events could have looked at maps, predicted chaos and advised alternatives but I doubt France would have take any notice. There will be no response and no one will take responsibility for the mess. It’s not what France does.

    We queued for 3 hours to get in and the gendarmes were standing around like lemons, completely unable to manage the situation but they really won’t have cared. I live in France. I understand French ‘organisation’ and sense of ‘accountability’. Anyone who understands that should have stayed at home and watched on red button. I wish I had.