Dressage Europeans hang in the balance

  • Concerns surrounding the FEI European Dressage Championships, which are due to take place in Moscow 27 – 31 July, have escalated after the Russian government’s failure to agree over issues of finance.

    Event organisers initially overlooked the need to ensure that the championships had the authorities’ support. Over the last few days Mariette Withages, chairman of the FEI Dressage Committee, has worked hard to negotiate with Russian government officials to ensure the championships will go ahead.

    “They have had a deadline and it has passed and they have asked for it to be extended. Now I am just waiting for an answer”, she told Horse & Hound Online this morning, “It could arrive in five minutes or it could arrive in two days…”.

    Since negotiations began, the Russian government has guaranteed police support during horse transport from the airport to the competition venue and has ensured that stabling conditions will be suitable. Now it is only matters of finance that hang in the balance. “[The event organisers] are doing everything they can to get a guarantee from the government regarding financing the event,” says Withages.

    The championships are due to be held at the Bitza Equestrian Centre, 10km from central Moscow, with prize money totalling €130,000. The centre was opened in 1980 and served as the venue for equestrian events in the 1980 Olympic Games. It has been expensively renovated and refurbished in preparation for the competition, which is seen by many as an important opportunity for Russian equestrianism.

    If the government’s negotiations fail to resolve questions surrounding the competition’s finances, the championships could yet be forced to move to another European country.

    The British squad of Fiona Bigwood (Mr G de Lully), Wayne Channon (Lorenzo CH), Carl Hester (Escapado) and Emma Hindle (Wie Weltmeyer) are all waiting to hear where they are going to compete. The squad is aiming to retain the bronze medal they won on home ground at the last European Championships at Hickstead in 2003.

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