Race is on to host 2018 World Equestrian Games

  • A record eight countries are applying to host the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) – in spite of the financial crises that have plagued previous championships.

    Australia, Canada, Hungary, Morocco, Russia, Sweden, the USA and Austria are all in the running for 2018.

    FEI secretary-general Ingmar de Vos said it was “the best possible endorsement of our flagship event”.

    But despite having won the right to host a range of top sporting events after the Olympics – including the 2017 World Athletics Championships and the 2015 Rugby World Cup – Britain has no plans to bid.

    With a “pop up” venue being built for the Olympics, Britain does not have a ready-made venue and the domestic calendar is already saturated with top-class horse sport.

    “Much as we would like to do so, it is just not viable in a financial sense,” said Andrew Finding, chief executive of the British Equestrian Federation (BEF).

    “The French team running 2014 [in Caen] estimate it will cost €58million ( £50m).
    The cost seems to be extraordinarily high,” he added.

    According to figures quoted in the FEI statement, the 2010 Kentucky WEG generated as much as $396m ( £251m) for the organisers and the local area.

    But there was no mention of the CHF(Swiss francs) 1.24m ( £890,000) bailout that the FEI made at the last minute.

    Mr de Vos said he believed a record number of countries had been encouraged to vie for the 2018 WEG because of the revised “competitive and transparent bid process”.

    Of the seven games held since WEG started in 1990, only Aachen (2006) has turned a profit. And the organisers of Jerez (2002) were still paying their WEG bills as late as 2006.

    But the man bidding to bring WEG to Florida said he did not share Mr Finding’s concerns.

    Michael Stone – a former FEI secretary-general who now runs Palm Beach equestrian centre – said the infrastructure was already in place.

    Kentucky almost had to start from scratch,” he said.

    “We have a team who know how to organise big events. The Winter Equestrian Festival held here alone brings in $120m and 5,000 horses.

    WEG is so prestigious and we want it to stimulate interest in horse sport in this part of the US,” he added.

    This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (24 November 2011)

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