We Did It and We Did It Well

The last day of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games opened up with a press conference with HRH Princess Haya, Jamie Link, John Long and Dr. Pearse Lyons talking about how the Games unfolded.

What I remember most is when Princess Haya spoke about the fact that these Games were a unanimous success.  Other comments focused on the fact that there were a lot of naysayers that said it couldn't be done but not only was it done but it was done well leaving a legacy behind that has changed the face of the Kentucky Horse Park forever.

The new Alltech Indoor arena already has 53 events scheduled that were formerly held in other venues.  Downtown Lexington had a much needed facelift that has raised the spirit of the community.  Over half a million people were privy to these Games and to the state of Kentucky.

The 8 1/2 hours of coverage on NBC was expanded by a number of internet airings, Facebook and Twitter postings and tons of blogs.  The flow of news that came out of these games was truly unprecedented.  

Jamie Link said that the Games will make money when all is said and done and not leave with a debt.  Dr. Pearse Lyons said that his initial investment of $10 million which was increased to $11 million plus an activation cost of $32 million was well worth it.  The branding for the company has been truly phenomenal.

"It took me 10 minutes to make the decision to sponsor this event, next time it would take me 10 seconds," he commented adding how as a global company the exposure has been witnessed around the world.

The organizing committee worked hard and did an incredible job with shuttling all the people that came in and out of the venue.  For me personally it was the best media shuttle system I've ever had at an international event.

For us the competition couldn't have been better.  There were some things we as media would have liked to have seen done differently but when it came to getting great photos and writing cool stories there was a way to get what we needed to do a good job.  Sometimes the path to that wasn't as easy as we would have liked but at least where there was a will there was a way.

In addition to this Press Conference the focus of the final day was Driving Cones, Para Dressage and Team Vaulting and concluding the day with the Closing Ceremony featuring Lyle Lovett.

Driving Takes A Bow

The cones phase of Driving was an interesting opportunity to get pictures of these impressive four-in-hand horses and coaches.  Just amazing when you see the four horses listening to their drivers weave them in and out of the cones with the hopes of not knocking down any balls placed on top of each cone.  Some sections were straightforward from cone to cone but other areas they had to weave in and out of.

Cones 15, 16 and 17 proved especially difficult and were where most of the competitors had their faults.  It required them to take a serpentine route to weave between the three cones and in doing so frequently the ball on top of one of the cones at 16 fell.

Strangely enough they were having technical difficulties and about half way through the driving when Ludwig Weinmayr was about to start they asked him to leave the arena so they could address the timing equipment problems.  They thought it was fixed and Weinmayr was successful in getting through when he finally did start.

However, the next competitor was Chester Weber and again he was asked to leave, then asked back, got half way through the cones and was asked to interrupt his ride again so they could address the technical issues.

Then we heard them make an announcement asking all the Chef d'Equipes to come and meet with the technical delegates and they agreed to go to manual timing to keep the event moving along.  They allowed the grooms to carry a stop watch and would be allowed to talk to their drivers, something normally not allowed.

There was still another short delay as the grooms ran back to the stabling area to get the stop watches they were familiar with.  While it may not be obvious what difference this would make, with the electric timers the driver can easily keep an eye on the time by just looking at the seconds as they click away on the scoreboard.  It is something that has been a good addition to Driving which used to only be timed manually.

The change set everything back around a half hour but I've always believed it's not about how you do things when they are going well but how you resolve problems when they arrise.  Here they did the right thing.  They met with the Chefs to get their opinion.  They quickly made a decision so that the competition could move forward and they made some exceptions to the norm so that the remaining competitors could feel comfortable.


ut then after all that they got the timers up and running again and so it was all for naught.  As the drivers started again Chester put in a clear round and as he finished he encouraged the crowd to applaud and then silenced them just as he was about to depart.  That clear would be his ticket to winning this class with James Fairclough second.  They along with teammate Tucker Johnson took the Silver Medal behind The Netherlands and in front of Germany.  Individually Boyd Exell (AUS) took the Gold, Isjbrand Chardon (GER) the Silver and Tucker won the Bronze Medal.

While I was focusing on the Driving at the very same time the U.S. team was dancing their way on horseback to a Gold Medal victory in Vaulting.  And so this was a good day for us.

Only one more thing to go before the Games were officially over and that was a simple but inspiring Closing Ceremony.  I was most moved when HRH Princess Haya spoke about what a brilliant Games these were and how fantastic to have Para as part of it.  She spoke about the crowds and the unprecedented coverage and the wonderful job the volunteers did.  Her speech reached out to the heart and soul of everyone present and when it was time to say her final words she prefaced it by saying "It is with a heavy heart that I now proclaim these Games closed."

Her heartwarming speech was followed by an hour long concert by Lyle Lovett who also captivated those present as they cheered loud enough for him to return two more times after he was done.  The last time when they bellowed, "We want Lyle."  He too was heartened by the enthusiasm of those who were here to be a part of these World Equestrian Games.

And with that I announce this coverage of mine closed.  It's been brilliant, amazing, better than we could have hoped for.  The journey has been long and tough to keep up with but oh so memorable.  I hope you enjoyed getting an inside view here at Horsesdaily.  Keep an eye out for the next time we journey into the center of the horse world.

Throughout the past two years I interviewed a number of people and wrote the profiles you have been reading here.  One of those interviews was with Jamie Link, who was responsible for overseeing this entire event.  When I asked Jamie what his goals were he said to me, “I’m looking forward to October 11th when I can say ‘We did it and we did it well!”  Well Jamie you and your staff and John Nicholson and his staff and John Long and his staff and all the volunteers and so many more – You did it and you did it well!

All photo by Diana DeRosa.