Staged every four years, halfway between summer Olympics, the FEI World Equestrian Games™ has become a trademark platform for international equestrian sport. During the 22-year presidency of HRH Prince Philip the idea of combining world championships was regularly discussed by the FEI, but it was not until 1990, when his daughter The Princess Royal was at the helm, that the Games became a reality. The first edition, staged in Stockholm, Sweden in 1990, was a great success but when it moved to The Hague in The Netherlands four years later it was marred by organisational and financial problems. So when Ireland withdrew late in the day after a successful bid to stage the third Games in 1998, then it seemed the future of the concept could be in jeopardy. Italy stepped forward however, and even though the organisers had only a year to prepare for such an enormous project, the Games presented in Rome were nothing short of a triumph.
Jerez was the next venue in 2002, and the Spanish city did itself proud. Local government weighed in with significant support and it was a great success. And that was followed by the phenomenal event in Aachen, Germany four years later which attracted 576,000 spectators, and media coverage on an unprecedented scale. The Games then crossed the Atlantic, to Kentucky in the USA, in 2010 where Para-Equestrian Dressage joined the programme alongside Dressage, Driving, Endurance, Eventing, Jumping, Reining and Vaulting. For the first time all eight disciplines were staged in the same location, the Kentucky Horse Park. In contrast the 2014 Games in Normandy, France saw action taking place at seven different locations, yet it attracted another record audience and was an unforgettable sporting spectacle. The ever-increasing popularity of the Games, and the development of equestrian sport worldwide, was underlined by a 25 % increase in the number of nations taking part. Over 15 days of thrilling competition, 884 athletes from 74 countries, including 12 nations making their FEI World Equestrian Games™ debut, took part. The Normandy Games attracted more than 500,000 on-site spectators and a worldwide television audience of 350 million, as well as delivering an economic impact of € 368 million to the French economy.
Bromont in Canada was awarded the 2018 Games but withdrew last summer, and that was when Team Tryon stepped up to the plate with a bid that was accepted in November 2016. The only major adjustment required was a change from the original dates (12-26 August) following two scientific studies commissioned by the FEI which stated that climatic conditions would be significantly more favourable in North Carolina during September, particularly from a horse welfare perspective. FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 CEO, Mark Bellissimo, says he wants “ to make Tryon the Aachen of North America ”, an audacious undertaking but one he is determined to execute. Mr. Bellissimo has considerable experience in the management and development of equestrian venues and facilities in the US. Together with his business partners he operates the hugely successful Palm Beach International Equestrian Centre located in Wellington, Florida, The Colorado Horse Park which is situated in Parker, Colorado, and the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, North Carolina.
The $ 175 million Tryon International Equestrian Center was still a greenfield site in 2014 but today boasts 12 all-weather arenas including a floodlit international ring with a potential spectator seating capacity of up to 12,000 and VIP seating for up to 1,500, a covered arena with 5,000 seats, and a world-class cross country course that will be used for both Eventing and Driving. The venue is surrounded by hundreds of miles of equestrian trails for Endurance and has excellent facilities for athletes and spectators including restaurants, hospitality, accommodation, retail and resort amenities.
A state-of-the-art veterinary facility was already under construction when FEI President, Ingmar de Vos, announced the re-allocation of the Games. “ It’s a truly spectacular venue and almost all the necessary infrastructure for our eight disciplines is already in place. We are looking forward to a fantastic celebration of top level sport as all the disciplines come together to crown their world champions … ” he said. Mark Bellissimo pointed out : “ It’s a really great fit for The Carolinas Equestrian heritage and we look forward to working closely with the FEI and with the USEF (United States Equestrian Federation) to produce fabulous FEI World Equestrian GamesTM in 2018. ” Longines is proud to be the Official Timekeeper of the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018.[Daphne Deschamps]