Due South // Nancy Jaffer

No U.S. Venue for 2022 Olympic and Para-Equestrian Qualifiers

The Kentucky Horse Park was not on the list for consideration as a host for the 2022 world championships, as the FEI announced bidders for those events.

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By: Due South // Nancy Jaffer

The Kentucky Horse Park, which hosted the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in 2010, was not on the list for consideration as a candidate for the 2022 world championships, as the FEI announced bidders for those competitions yesterday.

In the Olympic disciplines of dressage (coupled with para dressage), show jumping and eventing, the 2022 championships will serve as qualifiers for the 2024 Paris Olympics and Paralympics, which lends them more importance beyond the medals that will be won there.

Multi-discipline bids will be given preference. Italy, which held the 1998 WEG, volunteered for a 2022 version, with competition at Pratoni del Vivaro (the scene of driving and eventing in 1998), Rome and Verona. The other WEG candidate for all disciplines was Saudi Arabia, which put forward Riyadh. Cities in an additional eight nations bid for individual or multiple championships, including the only Western Hemisphere entry, WestWorld in Scottsdale, Ariz., which wants to stage vaulting and reining – neither of which are Olympic disciplines.

Equestrian Events Inc., which presents the 5* Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event at the Kentucky Horse Park, had intended to enter a bid for jumping, eventing, dressage and para. But its president, Stewart Perry, said EEI decided not to at the last minute because the Horse Park itself was going to put in a bid and it didn’t make sense for two entities to submit for the same venue.

“It’s a shame, because the Horse Park said they did not have time to work with us in a partnership bid, but after it was accepted, they would come back to us and talk about how we could work together,” Stewart said.

“Maybe if they put it together with us at the start, it might have been something different.”

Jonathan Lang, the Horse Park’s deputy executive director, said “the possibility is always open” to submit a bid for other championships down the road. In the meantime, he mentioned, “We have some other exciting things coming up. Equitana will be here next fall (2020) and the American Eventing Championships will be here this fall.”

Will Connell, the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s director of sport, said after meeting with the Horse Park about its bid, USEF could not completely support that effort. He declined to identify areas where the proposal fell short, but did note they couldn’t be addressed in the time left before bids had to be submitted to the FEI.

“We put in place a very robust system to consider any bid that came forward, to analyze it,” Will explained.

“We were not able to fully support the Kentucky Horse Park bid as it was presented to us, and we provided some feedback to them, and then the bid was submitted to the FEI. Then the FEI makes the decision as to who goes forward for consideration. The FEI were clear what they were looking for. Scottsdale has gone forward to the next phase and Kentucky has not.”

He added, “There is no doubt the Kentucky Horse Park is physically an excellent venue. The next step in discussions with Kentucky is how to build a plan for the future. We want to see Kentucky host major championships.”

After what Will termed “challenges” involved with the 2018 WEG, he said the FEI “wanted to make sure 2022 was successful. The concept of WEG and all disciplines together is fantastic, but personally, I would put a higher importance on the quality of the world championships. Once there’s confidence in the quality, bringing more and more disciplines together then becomes the next target.”

He mentioned that the FEI was very clear “they want some security and national federations should be part of that process and be able to work with organizers and give honest feedback to the FEI.”

The FEI published all validly submitted bids, according to a spokesperson for that organization. As per the terms and conditions of the FEI bidding process, an Organizing Committee can only submit a formal bid with the endorsement of the host country National Federation. All bids will be fully evaluated over the summer and allocation of FEI World Championships 2022 will be made at the November board meeting during the FEI General Assembly in Moscow.

Although finances – which scuttled Bromont, Quebec’s plans for the 2018 WEG, situating them instead in Tryon, N.C. – likely would not be an issue with Saudi Arabia, its bid would seem to bear a lot more examination. The heat in that nation, for instance, would be an issue for eventing.

“My first impression is it would be a little difficult to do,” U.S. Olympic eventing multi-medalist Phillip Dutton said tactfully. He was interested to hear that Millstreet, in Ireland, had bid for eventing as a stand-alone. Phillip understands the appeal of that approach.

“It sets itself up a bit more for success,” he commented.

In an intriguing sidelight on the process of awarding games, cities wanting to host the Olympics may be asked to hold a referendum of their residents before their bids can be considered in the future.

The requirement is likely to be included in the Olympic Charter when alterations to the document are approved at the International Olympic Committee’s meeting next week, according to Australian IOC member John Coates. He said a referendum would be a simple way to stop cities from withdrawing after losing a public referendum.

Only two cities, in Italy and Sweden, were left from a field of seven for consideration to host the 2026 Winter Olympics and Paralympics after three other candidates withdrew following votes of the citizenry. Calgary, which hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics, became the ninth straight Olympic bid city to lose a referendum against holding the Games.

“It is not unreasonable to say that before we consider you, you have to satisfy us that you have the public and government support…” Coates was quoted as saying by Inside the Games.

A series of proposed IOC reforms also suggested that Olympic bids should be widened beyond one host city. While the WEG and Olympic processes are unrelated, it’s interesting that the concept is what Italy has proposed for equestrian competition in 2022.

~Nancy Jaffer