Due to current events cropping up in the equestrian community, this post has been in the works for almost two months, but has persistently bumped in favour of a hotter issue. Last week, this topic went from cool to warm, so I decided to stop putting it off and start discussing the mess that is the 2018 World Equestrian Games (WEG).
For those who aren’t aware, the WEG has been running every four years since 1990. It’s a combined world championships for most of the equestrian sports governed by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (the FEI) and, due to the unique nature of the FEI, the WEG is also pretty cool – competition takes place in both equestrian and para-equestrian disciplines: there’s no six week wait between championships, all disciplines are part of the same programme of events.
I did a significant amount of research on the history of the WEG, with particular reference to the 2006 Games in Aachen when I was in my final year at university – I had to write a report on the legacy of a sporting event of my choosing, and I picked a good one. At the time, the 2010 Games in Kentucky (the first time the WEG was held outside Europe) hadn’t taken place. I’d love to re-visit the topic now: the 2006 Games are often regarded as being the best in terms of organisation and legacy, whereas Kentucky is deemed to have fallen down slightly, especially in terms of budget (it was also the first time the Games had a sponsor with naming rights – which should have pulled in a substantial fee). To give Kentucky their due, they had a tough act to follow.
The next WEG takes place in 2014, this time in Normandy. By all accounts, preparations are going well. I have yet to attend a WEG and am disappointed that I’m likely to miss out again, despite it being held relatively close to where I am based, as I will probably be in the US at the time. I’d like to be looking forward to the 2018 WEG…but it currently doesn’t have a home. The FEI runs the WEG bidding process in a similar fashion to the IOC’s for the Olympics, and on this occasion it has been a shambles, though through no fault of the FEI or the candidate nations.
I was disappointed that the UK didn’t initially bid – we have yet to host, despite the fact that the Games are usually successful for us, and we are home to some of the most iconic equestrian venues in the world – but there were a strong variety of nations interested. One by one, they dropped out, the only one still standing being Canada. As of July 2013, it seemed that Canada had won by default. But earlier this month, the FEI revealed that they had other plans.
The FEI re-opened expressions of interest, with the deadline being next month. They stated that they were concerned about Canada’s ability to fund the Games, but that they would be happy to accept an amended submission. Canada isn’t out of the race, merely quite obviously looked down upon by the FEI.
The decision on the location of WEG 2018 was due to have been taken by now and, whilst there are still almost five years to go, the process cannot go on much longer. No, this event isn’t the Olympics, but it is important to the athletes and fans involved, and isn’t on a completely dissimilar scale. Holding equestrian events – particularly multi-sport ones such as this – is time-consuming and, more importantly, expensive. Whichever nation is selected will need time to raise funds and sponsorship, as well as putting the logistical elements of the event together. It isn’t a process which can be completed in a year, time for preparation is necessary.
Whilst a non-European host – reflecting the truly international nature of equestrianism – would be fantastic, I would also love to see my home country host the Games sooner rather than later (especially given that Team GB’s eventers are going to win team gold in Rio… fingers crossed, place your bets now but perhaps don’t count your chickens). Greenwich was ultimately a beautiful setting for the equestrian events at London 2012, but there are many parts of the country which could host a fantastic Games – and give us the all-important home advantage.
But my biggest hope for WEG 2018 is that my own life plans don’t get in the way, and I can be cheering my favourite riders on in every discipline.