The FEI (international equestrian federation) pulled the plug today on the Bromont equestrian facility’s ill-fated effort to stage the 2018 World Equestrian Games. The finances just weren’t there to enable the Quebec venue to host the compilation of eight disciplines.
Now the FEI is exploring alternatives for the eighth edition of the often-troubled concept. It is handicapped by the fact that locations such as the Wellington, Fla., or Tryon, N.C. showgrounds, which could handle the WEG on short notice, have sponsorship from Rolex, a former FEI sponsor. The federation’s current sponsor is a rival high-end watch company, Longines.
Bromont, which is in the middle of its two-week jumper show, also hosts major eventing and driving competitions.
Why not scrap the total WEG package and host groupings of sports? The European championships, for instance, have held show jumping, dressage and para-dressage at the same venue. WEG, which has grown from six disciplines to eight since it began in 1990 with a successful run in Stockholm.
Prior to that, world championships in each discipline were held separately. In 1986, for instance, show jumping was at Aachen, Germany; eventing in Australia, dressage in Canada and driving in England.
The last straw in a history of financial turmoil for the Bromont effort was the federal government’s decision this month not to put any money toward the project.
While expressing sadness over the situation, FEI President Ingmar De Vos said, “We have been working very closely with the COJEM (organizing committee) board and all levels of the organization since the Games were allocated to Canada in mid-2014 and have known for some time that the Bromont team was facing major financial difficulties.”
In fact, after Bromont’s problems became evident early-on, the FEI reopened the bidding process but in the end, Bromont seemed to be the only alternative, so it was allowed to continue.
“This has been a very difficult decision to come to terms with,” said Rosaire Houde, chairman of the COJEM board. The recent departure of key board members signaled the beginning of the end for Bromont.
“Since the new board took over, we have left no stone unturned in our quest to find solid funding to support the Games, but sadly this has not been forthcoming.”
The two organization mutually decided to end the contract.
“It is something I personally bitterly regret but it was the only responsible course of action,” the COJEM chairman stated.
The FEI pointed out that when Ireland dropped out as WEG host in 1998, Rome stepped in with less than two years to go and held a successful WEG. However, it did not include endurance, which went elsewhere, or reining and para-dressage, which were not part of the WEG at that point.
The FEI is hoping to make an announcement “shortly” about an alternative. With the Olympics getting under way next month, riders around the world are already thinking about their next major international championship, so the WEG has a spot on the calendar that the FEI must hasten to fill.
At the same time, it will have to make sure the host, if there is only one (see my comment above about doing the world championships in groups instead of in one event) is viable both economically and in terms of its facilities.