The World Equestrian Games looks set to undergo a series of changes as the International Equestrian Federation’s (FEI) flagship event came under the spotlight on the opening day of the FEI Sports Forum in Lausanne.
Tim Hadaway, FEI director of games and championships, reflected on last year’s event in Normandy, the biggest in the competition’s 25-year history, and highlighted the positives.
These included significant global media coverage with a total television audience of 330 million, and an estimated economic impact of €190 million (£136 million/€207 million) for Normandy and €368 million (£263 million/€400 million) for France, with “a significant surplus” expected to be announced shortly.
However, the FEI acknowledged that some aspects of the Games did not go well, particularly the logistical challenges presented by staging events across multiple venues, lateness in the publication of key information, issues with IT systems, transport and security and delays in the issuing of Ministry paperwork for the departure of horses.
Insufficient amenities and services, along with traffic problems, were also noted to have caused frustration for some spectators.
The FEI admitted the World Equestrian Games had become “a huge logistical and financial challenge and that, despite the many positives, the excellent sport and enjoyable atmosphere, the multiple venues had amplified complexity and stretched financial and human resources, occasionally resulting in the loss of the original concept of uniting the equestrian family”.
“A greater definition of requirements and technical specifications is underway in order to achieve a successful and sustainable event which is attractive for future bidders,” equestrian sport’s world governing body added.
The World Equestrian Games underwent a detailed strategic review ahead of Normandy 2014 and Matthew Wilson, The Sports Consultancy’s (TSC) director of consulting, presented the outcome in Lausanne.
Although 97 per cent of consultees agreed the Games should remain as the pinnacle of the equestrian calendar and 83 per cent wanted to maintain all eight disciplines at the event, the review found the 2014 edition’s budget was considered by many as exceptionally large, requiring extensive investment from the public sector.
As a result, the study concluded that a reduction in the size of the competitor field would help make the Games more sustainable as only very few nations could afford to host such an expensive and complex event.
A reduction in the length of the event to nine to 10 days including two weekends was also recommended as the current format was deemed too long for the media and spectators, as well as a re-design of the competition formats and schedule to make it more compact.
Wilson concluded by outlining the objectives the FEI should use to guide it through the proposed changes, including to ensure the event helps to grow the sport and assist with delivering the global appeal required for Olympic status, while carrying a lower financial and delivery risk, being commercially effective and accessible and attractive to spectators both on venue and via broadcast.
FEI President Ingmar De Vos opened the fourth FEI Sports Forum at the International Institute for Management Development in the Swiss city, which has attracted some 270 delegates from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), National Federations, sponsors, experts, media and other organisations.
“We are all here because we care about our sport,” De Vos said in his opening address.
“We need to be open and honest about the challenges we are facing as a sport but more than that we need to be proactive and brave enough to consider changes that will address these challenges.
“I remember a quote from IOC President Thomas Bach who said ‘change or be changed’.
“So it is absolutely not about change for the sake of change and by no means is there any desire to lose or replace the values and traditions of our sport.
“But we need to be open-minded to look at changes that can improve our sport and its legacy for the generations to come.
“What should be changed and how is why we are here today and I am grateful to each and everyone one of you for taking the time to participate in this Sports Forum.”
The second of the morning sessions at the Sports Forum saw IOC sports director Kit McConnell addressing delegates on Olympic Agenda 2020.
He likened the process the FEI is currently undergoing with its review of formats for the Olympic disciplines, to the process that the IOC has gone through with Agenda 2020.
“It’s timely that we could join you while you’re focusing on the evolution of your sport, as we are on a similar pathway that the IOC and the Olympic Movement have been on for the past 18 months,” McConnell said.
“The reasons you’re going through this process are similar to the reasons why we’ve gone through the process of Agenda 2020.
“We need to embrace change and be a driver of change, not a passenger, and we are moving forward with a completely holistic review of the IOC and the Olympic Movement.
“The IOC values our partnership with FEI and its stakeholders and we are committed to a close working relationship with FEI.”
The Forum is due to conclude tomorrow.
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