Another FEI World Equestrian Games have come and gone. It’s time for post-mortems. From what I’ve experienced in Normandy and Tryon, it’s a challenge to pull off these games successfully. It’s logistically complicated, financially costly, and when you throw in construction on top of it, it becomes a potential nightmare.
Many are calling for the end of WEG. They would prefer to see separate championships for every sport. I think that’s the “5-minute-there-I fixed it” solution. When analyzing a problem, you have to look at all variables. Is the product wrong? Or is it an execution problem? How was the marketing? It’s important to find out exactly where the issues are and how they can be fixed. Look at pros and cons of every option and find the best solution.
From a marketing perspective, grouping sports into one larger event is better than having many smaller ones. How many of us have ever watched Michael Phelps swim in any competition outside of the Olympics? I haven’t. Called the ‘Super Bowl of equestrian competition’ by The Washington Post, the games in Tryon caught mainstream press attention. There were articles on CNN, Reuters, The New York Times, BBC, The Globe and Mail, RTÉ (Ireland’s television channel) and many other publications. I’m not sure separate championships would get as much media coverage on their own.
Aachen in Germany is able to host a multi-sport equestrian event every July that combines show jumping, dressage, eventing, vaulting and driving. It puts on spectacular opening and closing ceremonies, which are a true celebration of the horse, in front of packed stands. It has modern facilities, incredible shopping and a state-of-the-art press office. Hotels are plentiful and there are free shuttles taking people to the event. This summer, 360,000 visitors attended the 9-day World Equestrian Festival – CHIO Aachen (an estimated 200,000 visitors went to the FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon). I’ve been to Aachen twice, once for the WEG in 2006 and last year. I cannot find one thing to criticize, everything was fabulous. How does Aachen pull it off every year without any major hiccups?
When faced with a complex problem, I think it is important not to jump to conclusions and go for the quick fix. Consider all variables to make the best decision going forward. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.