Grooms have arrived at the World Equestrian Games to find their promised accommodation consisting of rows of bunk-beds in dormitory tents.
Mark Bellissimo, founder, managing partner and chief executive officer of Equestrian Sport Productions which runs Tryon International Equestrian Center in North Carolina has apologised to grooms and national federations.
In a statement released on Sunday (9 September), Mr Bellissimo put the “mistake” down to miscounting.
“I made a personal commitment to housing grooms on site and I underestimated the demand,” he said.
“I was too optimistic. I made a mistake and I apologise. We are doing everything we can to rectify the situation.”
A state of emergency has also been declared in North Carolina due to the impending arrival of Hurricane Florence on the east coast of the US.
Residential vehicles (RVs) and two-bed cabins with a toilet and shower have been made available on site, while off-site accommodation at Rumbling Bald Resort — a 35-minute shuttle drive away — is also being offered.
Cabins and RVs have been secured for the Team GBR grooms.
“Without our grooms there would be no equestrian sport,” added Mr Bellissimo. “You have my word that we will resolve all issues related to the grooms accommodations.
“We at TIEC and the FEI have enormous respect for the grooms and the vital work that they do. It is our greatest commitment to ensure the safety and well-being of the horses competing and the individuals who are responsible for their care.
“Unfortunately, our plan for all grooms’ accommodations to be on-site could not meet the demand, but our team is working proactively and around the clock to improve the situation and ensure that all accommodations and personal needs are met.
“We were asked by the national federations to provide more on-site options and explored providing, as a very temporary solution, air-conditioned dormitory tents with showers and bathrooms provided close by until more RVs and cabins are available. However this option has clearly not met our stringent standards.
“We are aware that it is not viable in the long term and are urgently seeking alternatives.
“We also are offering financial compensation to national federations for any accommodations secured off site and many have chosen this option.
“In addition, there is an on site grooms’ lounge where they can relax in a comfortable environment.
“The national federations and the FEI are working extremely closely with our team to ensure that our grooms are treated with the respect they deserve and given the opportunity to choose an environment that suits them and their horses best.”
Lucy Katan, chief executive of the British Grooms Association (BGA), said in her blog today (10 September) that it is “highly concerning” that dormitory tents were considered an option at all.
“The tents have been likened to army accommodation by some, but the crucial point is this: this is not war,” she said. “This is a world-class event. The accommodation for the grooms, a vital part of each competitive team, must be world-class too.”
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She added the issue is a wellbeing concern for grooms and hopes “important lessons have been learned” and “greater efforts will be made for grooms in the future”.
“In general grooms are happy to share accommodation with someone they know, such as in the two-bed cabins,” she added. “Grooms want to be on the showground and close to their precious horses – it is their job to be so.
“However, in this situation, where grooms are travelling to Tryon from across the globe, asking them to share accommodation such as these dormitory tents, even for a couple of nights, is asking them to share their close personal space with complete strangers.”
Ms Katan added “supreme efforts” are being made by Tryon to rectify the mistake.
“It is understandable, given the poor weather that contributed to the delay of building works in Tryon, that various buildings were not prioritised,” she said. “What is troubling, however, is that the accommodation for grooms is one of these that became an appeared afterthought.”
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