Will the chaos in Tryon bring the WEG to an end?

Credit : Sportfot

Thursday 20 September - 09h45 | Stephanie Sieckmann

Will the chaos in Tryon bring the WEG to an end?

The first week of the 2018 Tryon FEI World Equestrian Games in North Carolina is over, four disciplines have wrapped up their competitions and four others – jumping, para-dressage, vaulting and driving – are now getting underway. Dressage, endurance and eventing riders from around the world are heading home from Tryon with very mixed experiences of the WEG, and this halfway point is a good moment to look back at the Games so far. GrandPrix Magazine spoke to Sönke Lauterbach, Secretary General of the German Equestrian Federation, for his view.

"We were aware that this might be difficult for everyone"

We were aware that this might be difficult for everyone - Will the chaos in Tryon bring the WEG to an end?

Cross-country at the 2018 WEG
Credit : Jean Philippe Martini/Icon Sport/Scoopdyga

GrandPrix: A venue landscape resembling a construction site, organizational chaos and storm warnings all left their mark on the first week of the World Equestrian Games in Tryon. Now that Week 1 is over, what are your thoughts on the event so far?
Sönke Lauterbach: We know that hosting the World Equestrian Games for the different FEI disciplines within existing infrastructure is always a challenge. And in this case, we knew that the organizers only had two years before the start of the Games to get ready after being awarded the contract. So we were aware that this might be difficult for everyone and that, for example, we would have to travel a long way to get to the site, as the accommodations for the teams are far away. That's not ideal, but you can live with it. The most important thing is that the horses are fine. And we would have felt safe with our horses even in a storm with wind gusts of 100 km/h. That's what matters.

Grand Prix Magazine: The accommodations for the horses are very good. What about the other conditions?
Sönke Lauterbach: There was a lot of rain, and the roads and parking lots were partly drenched, but the grounds in the stadiums and in the training areas are still very good. Everything dried up very quickly. The cross-country route for eventing was a real dream. I can not remember another championship track which was so fascinating: well prepared, well designed, good challenges, not too heavy, not too light, ideal for sports. Seen from this point of view, as far as the sporting conditions are concerned, one has to draw a positive conclusion. The conditions are very good here.

GrandPrix Magazine: So what points are there to criticize?
Sönke Lauterbach: While the conditions are good for sport, a lot of other things are not so good. We knew that would be the case. But we did not expect it to be so bad. One has to say that too. Our Chef de Mission, Dr. Dennis Peiler, was already here a week before the start of the Games. He called and said that it was worse than we had been expecting it to be. But you also see how something happens here every day. Day by day things get better. We have already had other events where it was difficult in the first week and then it got better as the WEG were taking place. Of course, it’s unfortunate for the organizer, as he wanted to show off his facility and business in a good light.

Difficult to postpone endurance

Difficult to postpone endurance - Will the chaos in Tryon bring the WEG to an end?

Credit : Scoopdyga

GrandPrix Magazine: Let's talk briefly about the chaos surrounding the endurance ride. What went wrong?
Sönke Lauterbach: What happened is unacceptable. One thing that caused the chaos was that no one knew the route, let alone knew where to start. Normally, the start is known before the start of the ride. The riders see it in advance, and they don’t come there for the first time in the dark in the morning. It is standard procedure to know the starting point, and it's inexcusable that no one in Tryon could see it beforehand. That this resulted in such an error with some riders misdirected on the track only made things worse.
GrandPrix Magazine: Did the Chefs d’Equipe not insist on seeing the start?
Sönke Lauterbach: In the lead-up to the competition, the Chefs d’Equipes did ask to get the necessary information, which is their job. But if the information was not delivered. If you ask for it 30 times and if they are always brushed off and don’t get anything, they have to make the decision for themselves: either take part or not. And if the riders are already there, having made the long journey and done all the preparation, then of course they want to ride. I have not talked to the organizer about it since it happened, because we know that the FEI has launched an investigation into endurance. You have to give the FEI time. Then everything has to be dealt with.
GrandPrix Magazine: What about the FEI’s involvement in the Games?
Sönke Lauterbach: I have seen how much FEI employees have been working here on site. Some of them have already been working here at the World Equestrian Games for four weeks, which is unusual. When it was clear shortly before the start that there was still a construction site everywhere, the FEI put many employees on the plane and these people are now organizing the competition. The IT expert set up the shuttle service, which did not exist yet. And the gala show expert came up with the opening ceremony, which was still not planned three days before it was set to take place. 
GrandPrix Magazine: And what about the FEI’s involvement with the endurance race? 
Sönke Lauterbach: The FEI’s decision to stop the endurance race after it had started so wrongly was correct, in my view. But in such a situation you can almost only make wrong decisions because you can never please everyone. I think cancelling it was the right decision. 

GrandPrix Magazine: Would it have been possible to postpone the ride? 
Sönke Lauterbach: That would have been difficult logistically. On the one hand, there is the planning of the teams, which are already preparing for their return flights. And then from an administrative point of view, I heard that many of the landowners concerned [whose land the course crossed – editor’s note] had only given their consent for one day. In addition, for the 160 km route you need an incredible number of security guards and police who secure the roads and crossings, which can not easily be organized for another day. The endurance ride is the most difficult element to organize in such a tournament. That's why you can't just start again the next day. The whole preparation of the endurance ride was catastrophic. Then it was necessary to make a decision on the spot at short notice. The decision was right, in my opinion. 

Future of the Games?

Future of the Games? - Will the chaos in Tryon bring the WEG to an end?

Voting at the FEI General Assembly in Uruguay in 2017
Credit : FEI Photos

GrandPrix Magazine: The FEI stated that around 50 horses had to be treated at the clinic. Was the decision to cancel made too late? 
Sönke Lauterbach: The statement that 50 horses were treated at the clinic is confusing. Many of the horses just got fluids. This is normal in endurance. This was not made clear in the FEI press release. If out of the 50 horses in the clinic 30 animals only got fluids, it is not quite as frightening. The cancellation was the right decision – now, whether you could have maybe done that an hour earlier, that can be discussed. But on this point, the FEI lived up to its responsibility and took charge. 
GrandPrix Magazine: Would it make sense after this unfortunate experience to exclude the endurance discipline from the WEG? 
Sönke Lauterbach: We will have to look at everything. The FEI will discuss the results of their analysis with the organizer. And in November at the General Assembly, of course, all of these issues will be talked about. I think it's not just about the future of endurance riding. I don’t want to say, ‘break up the World Equestrian Games,’ but we have to see if the WEG will ever happen again. What we are seeing is that there are very few promoters in the world who have an overall package which works really well. That's a pity, because the idea is great and I hope that it will be possible to continue with the idea of the World Equestrian Games. First of all, we have to see if there are any real candidates for 2022. And if there are, the selection process and support services must be more closely tied together than was obviously the case here. 
GrandPrix Magazine: Is the location of Tryon for the WEG conceivable again in the future? 
Sönke Lauterbach: Tryon would have to apply once again. And after this experience this year, I don't know if there would be a chance to win it again. There has already been a lot of trust lost for all involved. To say, ‘we’ve finished planting now and the grass is nice and green’ won’t be enough. And first, you have to see if anyone dares to organize it.

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