Well, that’s that then. Bromont did not get WEG, as was announced by the FEI on the most ironic of dates, Canada Day. I’ve noticed the FEI’s Communications Dept. has developed a taste for wordy, strange headlines (such as this one); yesterday’s Bromont rejection letter is a perfect example: “Canada to remain in mix as bidding process for FEI World Equestrian Games 2018 re-opened”. Still in mix? What mix? They were the sole remaining bidder. It’s a bit like saying ‘mix ingredients’ when all you have in the bowl is flour. The other (false) impression the headline gives is that this was not a rejection at all, but more like Tyra Banks telling a contestant: ‘congratulations. You’re still in the running to become America’s Next Top Model.’ In fact, it’s really more like the final episode of the season, and Tyra says to the last girl in front of her, ‘you’re the only one left but you’re not pretty enough so we will have no winner at all this season. Feel free to try again against a whole new bunch of girls next year.’
The FEI may be saying that Bromont can still bid, but as far as I’m concerned, this journey is over. The evidence is right there in the press release: ‘the Canadian delegation was unable to provide the full public sector financial support’. That almost certainly means the Harper Government didn’t sign on the dotted line. It wouldn’t be that PM Harper is dragging his heels on the matter, more probable that he just said ‘no thanks’ to spending tens of millions of dollars on a horse show. And unless there is a sudden, unforeseen change in leadership in this country in the very near future, that situation is very unlikely to change before the new bid deadline rolls around next spring. At least I now know why Roger Deslauriers kept dodging my questions when I was at the Bromont CCI last month.
I’ve expressed doubts on previous posts about whether Bromont would or should get the gig. Given that it currently has far less infrastructure than Lexington did when it won the 2010 bid, and given the giant red line WEG 2010 left on the books (not to mention a significant chunk of emergency change thrown at it by the FEI at the 11th hour and 11th minute), one can hardly blame the FEI for refusing to give WEG 2018 to Bromont and expose itself to further financial risk. And if the federal funding didn’t come through, it would have been nothing short of insanity for the Bromont team to keep marching along with too few coins in their pockets anyway. Disappointed the bid committee members most certainly are, but the FEI has actually done them a favour by rejecting a bid that was not sufficiently supported financially.
So what happens next? Who will come back to the table? Austria already hinted last winter after they pulled out that they may come back in ‘when’ Canada failed to win the WEG (yes, they really did use ‘when’ and not ‘if’). I’m also putting a few bucks on my bet that a bid will arise from somewhere in the middle east. When you look at the exponential increases in the investments from countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia, it seems like a logical next step in their quest for world equestrian domination. And goodness knows, they have the money to do it.
Now, where would I like to see WEG 2018 take place? First of all, I think WEG needs to be reassessed as an event. Encompassing eight disciplines makes it so big and so expensive that very few countries are in a position to be able to rationalize the massive commitment for a very probable financial loss. I believe it’s a mistake to put all eight disciplines into one mega-event, and I don’t really think the ‘smaller’ disciplines like Reining, Endurance and Vaulting actually benefit from their inclusion. Instead of being stand-alone specialty events that draw fans of those disciplines, they become the poor cousins – with luke warm attendance compared to the Olympic disciplines. If no one else bids for WEG 2018, the FEI may be forced to carve up this very large watermelon into more manageable pieces so that they can entice bidders to commit to smaller events that will cost less to host.
If we can imagine for a moment that money is no object to the potential host of WEG 2018, here are a few places I would love to see it happen:
Australia – who wouldn’t love a WEG Down Under, mate?
Ireland – they tried and failed once before to host WEG in 1998, but as a country with a great horse history and culture, I think it would make a wonderful location.
Russia – mainly because that’s a country I’m never likely to visit unless an event like WEG were to take place there, and yet I’m pretty sure it would be a fascinating experience.
South Africa – an emerging equestrian nation, spectacularly beautiful scenery, and a thriving wine industry to keep all the spectators happy even if their countries’ teams are not winning medals.
North Korea – just kidding.