The World Equestrian Games to be Held at Tryon International Equestrian Center in North  Carolina

(Previously published in Equestre Americas Magazine, Issue 4)

From the 10th to 23rd of September 2018, more than 700 equestrian athletes from five continents will meet in the U.S. state of North Carolina to star in one of the most acclaimed horse events in the world: the FEI World Equestrian Games™ .

On November 3rd, the FEI Bureau unanimously agreed that the Games should be awarded to Tryon, meaning that the FEI’s flagship event will remain in North America, following the withdrawal of Bromont (CAN) earlier this year.

“We are very pleased to announce Tryon as the host of the FEI World Equestrian Games 2018,” said FEI President, Ingmar de Vos. “The Tryon team submitted a really impressive bid and we have every confidence in the organizing committee. 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 at the Games in two years’ time.”

Mark Bellissimo, managing partner of Tryon Equestrian Partners (TEP), commented, “We are thrilled with this news and thank the FEI Bureau for having faith in us and entrusting us with the honor of hosting this prestigious event. We are confident that our partnership and our operating team will create a memorable experience for all involved with the ultimate goal of significantly elevating horse sport in the U.S. beyond the 27 million people who ride a horse at least once a year.”

Chrystine Tauber, President of the U.S. Equestrian Federation (USEF), also added, “We are delighted to welcome the FEI World Equestrian Games back to the United States and are delighted that the event will remain in North America.”

Back to America

History of the Games

The WEG occurs every four years in the middle of the Olympic cycle. It is the major international equestrian championship event for jumping, dressage and para-equestrian dressage, eventing, driving, endurance, vaulting, and reining. Much like during the Olympic Games, equestrian enthusiasts from over 70 countries trek to WEG host cities every four years to cheer on athletes from their native lands.

The inaugural FEI World Equestrian Games™ were hosted in Stockholm (SWE) in 1990. Since then, the Games have been staged in The Hague (NED) in 1994, Rome (ITA) in 1998, Jerez (ESP) in 2002, Aachen (GER) in 2006, Kentucky (USA) in 2010, and Normandy (FRA) in 2014.

Economic Impact

The 2010 WEG held in Lexington, Kentucky was the first time the Games took place outside of Europe. The Games had an economic impact of $201.5 million over the event’s 14 days, according to a financial study commissioned by the state. The last WEG, held in Normandy, had a local economic impact of $400 million (368 million euros), an attendance of over 500,000 spectators during the 14-day event, and a worldwide television audience of 350 million viewers.

The venue for the 2018 WEG stands to do a lot for the equestrian and local economies too. Bellissimo has stated, “Our integrated approach to existing on-site lodging, restaurants, permanent VIP hospitality venues, and abundance of on-site and local area family activities would be attractive for vendors, sponsors, competitors, horse owners, and spectators. In addition, there are 60,000 hotel beds within 60 miles of the venue. We are confident that these elements would create a very successful games and re-energize the WEG product.”

Indeed, the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) is already a welcomed economic engine for the region, having created hundreds of jobs and employing thousands in construction efforts over the last two years. WEG’s estimated $400 million impact will extend up to and beyond Charlotte, Asheville, and Hickory in North Carolina and Greenville and Spartanburg in South Carolina. Tryon Equestrian Partners (TEP) estimates it will invest an additional $100 million over the next two years during phase two of the development, which is primarily focused on resort amenities including lodging and hospitality elements.

Tryon International Equestrian Center

Building on a Well-Oiled Machine

“The WEG is a very challenging and complicated event,” says Bellissimo. “With the exception of Aachen, Germany, most venues are forced to spend many years and tens of millions of dollars investing and developing the venue infrastructure, developing the personnel, attracting sponsors, and managing logistics for the WEG. This takes a financial and operational toll by consuming scarce resources on the venue construction and team building efforts for a one-time event. We have a fully functional equestrian venue, the management team and operational staff, and the sponsor pipeline in place, so the bulk of our energy will be on operational execution and showcasing the event and the sport to the world.”

Changes With The Season

The Games were rescheduled from their original dates (12-26 August) following two FEI-commissioned scientific studies that found climatic conditions would be significantly more favorable in North Carolina during September, particularly from a horse-welfare perspective. The FEI also looked at date conflicts with other fixtures on the FEI calendar to select a time slot that would ensure optimum participation in the 2018 Games.

Among several other changes to FEI show jumping rules, the FEI General Assembly has ruled to eliminate the “Final Four” competition, where the top four showjumpers rode each other’s horses to determine the overall winner. The General Assembly decided that the final phase to determine the world champion would be dropped entirely as part of updated showjumping rules for 2017. The old format involved each of the top four individual riders in the competition jumping a shorter course on each other’s horses. Each rider would ride one round on each horse, with the warm-up taking place inside the main arena so preparation is visible to the audience.

At the 2018 WEG, riders will contest two rounds (Rounds 1 and 2) of “team competition (also individual qualifier)” events over two different courses and over two days. Only the top 10 teams and top 60 individuals will move on from Round 1 to Round 2. Medals will be awarded at the conclusion of Round 2. After a rest day, only the top 25 riders and horses from the team competition will move on to Round A of the individual competition. Only the top 12 athletes and horses (based on their cumulative scores from Round 1, Round 2, and Round A) will compete for the individual title in Round B. The overall individual winner will be the rider who has incurred the fewest penalties from the team and individual competitions. Should there be a tie in penalties for first place, there will be a timed jump-off to determine the world champion.

Credits: The Chronicle of the Horse, “TIEC To Bid For 2018 World Equestrian Games” by Edited Press Release; FEI, “Tryon (USA) to host FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018” by Press Release.