While most people are getting ready to start their Christmas shopping the day after Thanksgiving, the hottest equestrian gift this year goes on sale to the public next week: Tickets to the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy. The ticketing structure for these Games is quite different than it was for the 2010 Games in Lexington. First, the best news: the price. Although ticket prices have not been officially announced, they are expected to average 25 euros (at the present exchange rate, that’s about $33.50). “We want the Games to be affordable for everyone,” said Fabien Grobon, CEO of the 2014 Games, in an interview. “The point is to introduce the world to horses, to bring in spectators who perhaps have had no direct contact with horses. They may come, thinking, ‘I want to go to the Games because it’s so big and there are so many other things to do – but horses aren’t for me.’ After they see horses up close and learn about them, touch them, even get to ride one, we hope they will go home with a different view.”
Ticket sales are being conducted in three phases, the first of which began on a limited basis in June and ends next week, when public ticket sales open November 18.
Until then, tickets have been released only to certain groups: Games partners, the FFP (French Polo Federation), the FFE (French Equestrian Federation) and other national federations. The public has had access to ticketing only by booking a complete travel package (passes, accommodation and transport) through one of the Games’ official tour operators, an attractive option that still remains available through the following:
USA: Equestrian Tours
Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway: Equi Tours
Germany and Austria: FN Ticket & Travel
Australia and New Zealand: Organisation Unlimited
Spain, Portugal, Central and South America: Oxer Sport
Canada: Groupe Voyage Québec
Starting next week, you can buy tickets on your own. However, for the next few months, you cannot buy individual (or “single-session”) tickets. From Nov. 18 until the final ticketing phase opens next spring, you can only buy multi-session tickets (referred to as “passes”). For now, here are your choices:
• Sensation Pass: Valid for weekends only, this pass is designed for those who want to see the major events and top highlights of the Games. It is valid for several disciplines and guarantees you will be able to attend at least one final.
• Discovery Pass: This pass enables you to watch several disciplines in the course of a day, for example: vaulting in the morning and jumping in the afternoon.
In spring 2014, two additional types of passes, both discipline-focused, will be available:
• Sport pass: If you’re interested in one particular discipline, this allows you to attend several sessions of that discipline in one day.
• Complete sport pass: This provides access to all the events of one discipline, whether they take place on one day or on multiple days. That means you can watch the entire competition for that discipline from start to finish.
Any type of ticket, whether an individual ticket or a pass, allows free access to the World Equestrian Games Village. Featuring an array of entertainment education and shopping options, it will be located on a vast outdoor area in the heart of the city of Caen.
Starting in spring 2014, passes will no longer be sold. Only single-session tickets will be available from then on through the Games.
The Games start with a spectacular Opening Ceremony on Saturday, Aug. 23, and end with the Closing Ceremony on Sunday, Sept. 7. The acts are being kept hush-hush to preserve the element of surprise. But Grobon did share a few details with a reporter. The Opening Ceremony will include speeches, a parade of riders, and a 90-minute extravaganza presented in 25 segments that tell the story of “Around the World in 80 Horses,” a theme being promoted throughout France to build excitement in the months leading to the Games.
“There is only one person managing the ceremonies, so not even the board will know” what is planned, he said. One hint, though: “The Opening Ceremony will dazzle you. We are creating visual illusion effects with lighting that will make you think something is right next to you, but it isn’t,” he added.
The opening and closing ceremonies will be held in D’Ornano Stadium, a massive coliseum-type structure that is normally used as a football (soccer) stadium. The arena in the middle is open to the sky and is completely surrounded by stadium seating for more than 20,000. Horses will enter the arena from a large tunnel below the seating structure. (That could take some mounts by surprise, particularly during late evening classes, when they will emerge from the darkness into an enormous field lit up like daylight, lined with rows of spectators several stories high.) Whatever the action in the arena, all seats have an unobstructed view.
Located in the center of the city of Caen, D’Ornano Stadium will host the Jumping (Sept. 1-7) and Dressage (Aug. 25-29) competitions, as well as the stadium jumping phase of Eventing. It is minutes away from the competition sites of most other disciplines, including the Zenith indoor arena. Built in a circle shape, Zenith is ideal for Vaulting (Sept. 2-5) and Reining (Aug. 25-30), which will be held there. It is undergoing major renovations to modernize it and to repair the roof, which caved in from heavy snows last winter. Within walking distance will be the Exhibition Centre, which is also the site of the exhibits, restaurants and entertainment in the Games Village.
Driving (Sept. 4-7) and Para-dressage (Aug. 25-30) will be held at the nearby Prairie Racecourse, where a polo demonstration will also take place Sept. 6. The other demonstration event, Horse-ball (which is huge in France), takes place Aug. 27 through 31 at Saint-Lo, also offsite.
Other offsite events include Endurance (Aug. 28), which starts in the charming village of Sartilly and follows the seashore, winding around the backdrop of the historic Bay of Mont St. Michel. The dressage (Aug. 28-29) and cross-country (Aug. 30) phases of Eventing (Aug. 28-31) take place south of Caen, at Le Pin National Stud.
To get your own “ticket to ride,” so to speak, you can go online starting November 18: www.alltechfeiweg2014normandy.com/tickets.
You can also reserve tickets on The Games’ Facebook fan page: “Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy”
Darlene Ricker is CEO and editorial director of Equestrian Authors, LLC (www.equestrianauthors.com). She was executive editor for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2010.