So, we’re here. Here at Tryon International Equestrian Center, North Carolina, waiting for the World Equestrian Games (WEG) to start in… well, the opening ceremony is in four and a half hours.
There are only two things anyone wants to talk about here.
The first is the weather. Is Hurricane Florence serious? Should we be laying in wind up torches and bottled water, stop worrying about writing about horses and start worrying about surviving? What will happen to the competition and what about the horses and the human family around them, from grooms to riders, officials and team staff?
I don’t have the answers, but we have a media briefing at 5pm local time (10pm British time) “to provide a full update on the event regarding the weather”, so we look forward to hearing that. We had torrential rain yesterday as we drove to our Airbnb, today has been hot and humid and is currently threateningly overcast.
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The second thing is the venue. There has been talk for weeks and months that Tryon — a venue which took on this WEG at relatively short notice after the FEI and the original venue, Bromont, reached a mutual agreement that it would not host the Games — will not be ready.
The motto here seems to be that “things change by the hour” and the word from those who have been here for a few days is that the speed of change is amazing. There’s concreting, tidying up, sweeping up sand and all sorts going on. Today is the first day the press centre has been ready for use (with the chairs still in their plastic wrappers).
Parts of the venue are superb. The “front end” of the two main arenas and the warm-ups look great. The design and layout in some areas is spookily reminiscent of the spectacular Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, host of the multi-week Winter Equestrian Festival each spring — and no wonder, as Mark Bellissimo and his company Equestrian Sport Productions are behind both venues.
Having had a quick wander round, the problem appears to be in the more “back end” areas — the rubbish and rubble under the seats, the plastic wrapping lying around, the lack of tidy delineation of areas for public and horses.
To be fair, there are no spectators on site yet, so maybe miracles will still be wrought, but there will be some here (hopefully) for the opening ceremony in just a few hours and it feels like things are being cut fine. Parts of the site — which are freely open to the many people who are already here in one capacity of another — are, to be honest, a building site.
This is my third World Equestrian Games and I want to be positive. I loved Kentucky in 2010, but Caen in 2014 was a ropey experience in many ways. If you’re here for two weeks, you have to start off thinking it will be good or you’re bound to have a trying time. We have internet and we were given free lunch (yes, it’s become a tradition that I blog about what I eat at championships) and we are promised supper later.
There may be a limit to how many sliders I can eat (we had them on the plane over too), but if that’s the least of my worries, I’m definitely not complaining.
Horse & Hound has two journalists and a photographer in Tryon for WEG. Keep up to date with all the news on horseandhound.co.uk and in the magazine issues dated 20 and 27 September.