Today we will take a little break from all the pre-London frenzy to quietly reflect on the escalating state of disunion in Welly World. This week, two major announcements made their way down the chute into the bull ring: Wellington’s 2018 WEG bid has been withdrawn, and Welly town council has edged one step closer to the precipice that could potentially send the the arenas and stabling located at Southern Florida’s most fought-over corner at South Shore and Pierson tumbling toward oblivion.
First of all, let’s talk about WEG. I am of the personal belief that Darwin’s law of evolution has been violated by the FEI’s mandate that the host of the World Equestrian Games must take all eight FEI disciplines under its financially burdened wing. It’s no longer a matter of ‘survival of the fittest’, but more ‘let’s see how big we can make this thing before it collapses under its own weight’. As a journalist, I find it impossible to come even close to covering more than half of those disciplines for the magazines, because it’s just too much crammed into 17 days. I can’t even SEE more than half of the competitions, which take place concurrently at the multiple venues that are needed. Lexington proved one thing beyond any shadow of a doubt: WEG has the potential, even the probability, to be a massive money hole. Not too big to fail, big enough to fail. With the mulit-million dollar (many multis, actually) commitment required to stage all eight disciplines, it’s well nigh impossible to conceive of doing it without a fairy godmother like Alltech to ‘activate’ some of the tremendous costs involved.
Anyone who falls on the “USEF Should Suspend Mason Phelps” side of the razor wire fence should give his or her head a shake. First of all, individuals possessing so little courage as to share their vitriol in an environment of anonymity deserve to be thoroughly ignored – and yes, I’m talking about both sides here. Second of all, do you really, honestly, seriously believe that Welly World is an ideal location for WEG? Hurricane season starts in July and ends some time in November. And if there isn’t a hurricane around, it’s hotter and stickier in the summer than at the World Sauna Championship. Unless the organizers could persuade the FEI to let them hold it in April, a Welly WEG would be a weather nightmare. I’m not even going to bother listing all the other obstacles to a Welly WEG bid, because the point would be moot. The fact is, the bid was withdrawn hours before Michael Stone was to have made his WEG presentation to the Welly Town Council. End of the fifth out of eight initial 2018 WEG bidders. End of story. Unless you want to blame the perpetrators of WEP’s hotel and restaurant woes. But I find that line of finger pointing rather, well, pointless. I believe the only chance Welly World had at getting WEG, regardless of the raging battle of politics that’s been going on over the past few months, would have been if it found itself the last man standing.
Here is a more interesting question: to what exotic destination will we all be booking our flights for the summer of 2018? Will it be the bucolic rolling hills of Bromont, where Olympic equestrian medals were won and lost in 1976? Having visited Bromont for the first time this June, I can tell you that it is a remarkably beautiful site, with much to offer competitors and spectators when it comes to quality of experience. The 100 million dollar question is whether or not Bromont’s bid committee can secure the dough it needs from the provincial and federal governments. I’ve heard that Roger Deslauriers (yes, father of the ex-Canadian Mario) has near magical powers over the politicos in his home province; but I have my doubts about his ability to weave the same spell over the feds.
Vienna is a lovely, lovely city and the country that it calls home equally so. I’m just not sure where they would hold the event. There is also a potentially deal-stopping hurdle shared with their rivals at Bromont: the almighty dollar, or more accurately, the increasingly imperiled Euro. Over the past couple of years there have been stories circulating about the mounting financial troubles suffered by that most venerable of classical equestrian institutions, The Spanish Riding School. There were tales of overworked horses and footing that saw better days a long, long time ago. The Euro Zone is facing collective financial strain on a scale never seen in modern history. As a member of that ailing union, is little Austria in a position to divert such a significant portion of its operating budget into a horse show? Or is one of that country’s billionaires going to sell a couple of castles to cover the bill for WEG?
That leaves just one more potential host country to talk about. Morocco, to my mind, is the least likely candidate for the WEG. Morocco has a grand total of 11 FEI officials, and that’s if you count twice the one who is both a jumper judge and course designer. The 2012 FEI calendar includes just three competitions in Morocco – all of which are jumper shows (CSI3*-W), and one of which takes place in the proposed WEG city, Rabat. To be honest, I would love it if the 2018 WEG were in Morocco. I’ve been to Vienna a handful of times already, and Bromont is just 25,000 Aeroplan points from home. Morocco’s high on my bucket list, but I can’t go there as long as I don’t have an excuse to leave behind my husband, Jan. And I’m certainly not going to accompany him to a country with such an active hawker culture after he almost got us killed in Turkey by telling the thousandth rug salesman of the day to F off. I love going to places I’ve never been and might not otherwise have a chance to see. But honestly, I can’t see it happening. If we were talking about the Donkey WEG, maybe.
You know what I think? I think the WEG has become such a behemoth that by the end of the year when the three remaining bidders have to pony up with proof that they have the cash and the cojones, there may be no one left. Let’s not forget that Normandy was THE ONLY bidder for 2014. WEG, as an eight-discipline concept, may be due for a major rethink if World Championship equestrian anything is going to survive into the future beyond the next two years.
Oh yeah I almost forgot. There were two Welly-related topics in today’s post. Please don’t tear down the GDF dressage facility. That wouldn’t just be dumber than a bag of hammers. It would be the dumbest thing to happen yet in the Wonderful World of Welly. And believe me; there’s no shortage of competition for that distinction.