By Jonathan Rest
Rome and Riyadh are both offering the FEI, equestrianism's governing body, the opportunity to persist with the World Equestrian Games in 2022, after submitting bids to host the seven-discipline event.
Italy and Saudi Arabia are two of 10 countries to have submitted formal bids to stage showpiece FEI World Championships in 2022, the others being Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Ireland, Slovakia, the Netherlands, United Arab Emirates and USA.
Rome hosted the full World Equestrian Games in 1998.
The FEI took the decision late last year to accept individual bids for championships of seven disciplines that make up the quadrennial World Equestrian Games, following a spate of problems with the processes for both the 2018 and 2022 editions.
Speaking to Sportcal during the SportAccord convention in Gold Coast last month, FEI president Ingmar de Vos indicated that there were "a couple of interested parties in doing the full concept of the World Equestrian Games."
However, the Belgian International Olympic Committee member warned those cities: “We have made it tougher by demanding experience from the organising committee and proven venues, because we do not want any risk. We owe it to our athletes that they can compete in the best circumstances in a stable environment and again with the focus on preferring the combined bids, but not at all costs.”
When announcing plans to do away with the World Equestrian Games, the stated preference from the FEI was for multi-discipline bids – at the very least the World Championships for dressage and para-dressage should be combined.
That message has been heard with Dubai (UAE) wanting to host jumping and endurance, Herning (Denmark) jumping, dressage and para-dressage and Scottsdale, Arizona (USA) reining and vaulting.
Single championships bids have come in for endurance from Samorin (Slovakia), Ermelo (Netherlands) and Padise Vald (Estonia), for driving from Szilvásvárad (Hungary) and for eventing from Millstreet (Ireland).
De Vos said: “The number of formal bids that we’ve received for single and multi-discipline FEI World Championships and full Games is an excellent indication that the interest in the World Championships is as strong if not stronger than ever. We knew that some of the countries that put in expressions of interest back in February were just dipping their toes in the water, but these formal bids are a great validation of the new bidding process and show that we have a really strong product.”
All bids will be fully evaluated over the summer and allocation of World Championships in 2022 will be made at the board meeting during the FEI general assembly in Moscow in November.
The decision to accept bids for individual championships followed the major problems the FEI encountered in the bid processes for both the 2018 and 2022 World Equestrian Games.
In 2017, Samorin withdrew its bid to host the 2022 edition, having been the sole candidate after Lexington in Kentucky, USA withdrew its candidacy at the turn of the year for financial reasons.
The FEI suffered a series of setbacks in the bid process for the 2018 World Equestrian Games, which were eventually awarded in 2016 to Mill Spring in North Carolina, but only after Bromont in Canada terminated its hosting contract, also citing financial issues.
Bromont had been named host in June 2014, less than a year after the city had been due to be awarded the event, only for it to fail to provide the necessary financial guarantees. That caused the FEI to reopen the bid process, but Bromont saw off the challenge of Lexington to be confirmed as the host.