Somehow, it was exactly the same as always. The stadium was full, the atmosphere was fantastic and at the Farewell to the Nations ceremony, the white handkerchiefs were waved ecstatically. In an interview, Frank Kemperman, Show Director and Chairman of the Aachen-Laurensberger Rennverein e.V., organisers of the event, explained what had been slightly different at the World Equestrian Festival Aachen 2015.
Question: Three days World Equestrian Festival instead of 10 days CHIO Aachen – how was it?
Frank Kemperman: Quite honestly, anyone, who wasn’t here, certainly missed something special. What a fantastic final yesterday in front of an almost sold-out stadium, only this grandiose Aachen crowd is capable of creating such an atmosphere. Here, I can only quote the winner of yesterday’s Rolex Grand Prix, Scott Brash: “From the bottom of my heart – you are the best crowd in the world.” A huge thank you to the visitors, you also turned this reduced format into something exceptional.
Question: How many people were there then?
Kemperman: We had 86,500 spectators at the grounds, which is a great result. On Friday, when entrance was free, it could have been a few more – in spite of the cold, damp weather. But on the Saturday, our grounds were filled to 76 percent of their capacity, indeed on Sunday even to 90 percent. The Main Stadium was almost sold-out for the Rolex Grand Prix, the atmosphere among the crowd was magnificent. And also very important: Around 30 percent of the visitors attended for the first time ever.
Question: That was probably due to the exceptional concept…
Kemperman: The idea of allowing top sport to meet top chefs, went down extremely well. The people were impressed. I believe Johann Lafer spent more time signing autographs and posing for photos than cooking. But that was also the idea: Top chefs up-close, I think all of the chefs, who cooked here, had just as much fun as the spectators.
Question: What was your personal highlight? Perhaps the lobster sausage of Aachen’s star chef, Christof Lang?
Kemperman: That was tremendous. I must admit, I ate my way through all of the stands and the food was excellent at all of them. In terms of culinary delights, it is difficult to favourise one single dish. But in terms of the atmosphere, for me the Farewell to the Nations ceremony was the most special event. When we wave our handkerchiefs, it is a feeling that I can’t describe. Only people, who experience it live, can understand that.
Question: Normally, you have a year’s break in between all that waving…
Kemperman: What is normal this year? In ten weeks’ time the FEI European Championships, one of the biggest and without doubt, most spectacular equestrian sport events of all time will be getting underway here. I am really looking forward to it.
Questions: How are things going with the preparations, what still has to be done?
Kemperman: We certainly won’t have time to get bored over the coming weeks. There is plenty to do in all areas, whether it be to do with the sport, administration, protocol, media, ticket sales or marketing. To mention just a few examples: The tent city will be totally different, instead of the current 115 exhibitors, there are going to be 220 exhibitors during the European Championships with around 250 tents. The dressage at the European Championships is being stated in the Main Stadium, a temporary roof is going to be installed in the Deutsche Bank Stadium, in order to stage the reining and vaulting competitions. We will be erecting a roof over the sand arena at the edge of the practice area of the show-jumpers and the eventers will also be competing, even though it is not part of the European Championships.
Question: What will you be doing on August 24th?
Kemperman: Raising a toast to our entire time that we have experienced the European Championships that were so fantastic and that we will never forget.