A Look Back: “Here’s Hoping We’ll Host Another WEG Soon”

The main stadium at the 2010 Lexington, Ky., World Equestrian Games was an awesome spectacle.

With the 2018 World Equestrian Games awarded to Bromont, Canada – a city in Southwest Quebec – many of us will find it fairly easy to attend. And it’s an amazing event – held once every four years in between the Summer Olympic Games. Our Performance Editor, John Strassburger, was part of the media there at the Horse Park in 2010. We’re sharing his story about that event again because, well, it’s an event you won’t want to miss in 2018:

When the Kentucky Horse Park was named to host the 2010 World Equestrian Games (WEG) about five years ago, my wife and I were so sure we wanted to go that we put our names on the list for tickets in 2006. We didn’t need those tickets after all, because we got jobs in the Media Center.

Yes, the attendance for these World Games fell short of the sky-high early predictions, made in the heady months of the economic boom that crashed two years ago. But 507,022 fans walked through the gates of the Kentucky Horse Park to watch the eight championships, and the WEG website recorded 1.5 million views, with 300,000 video streaming downloads to watch the action. Plus, NBC-TV showed eight hours of the WEG in sports prime time on three Sunday afternoons, and the Universal Sports Network showed another 15 hours, live.

These are absolutely unheard-of numbers in the history of U.S. horse sports—numbers never imagined until now. The TV numbers are thanks to hard work by Bob Hughes, of Carr-Hughes Productions, who produces TV equestrian coverage and convinced NBC executives that people will watch them, and to behind-the-scenes work by the communications folks at the WEG and the U.S. Equestrian Federation that made the sponsorship happen.

The website views and downloading are the result of relatively new technology that makes it cost-efficient to produce the video and for people to see it. Let’s face it: The WEG TV coverage doesn’t mean that suddenly horse sports are going to replace major league or college sports on TV. But many, including USEF President David O’Connor, believe that video streaming is the wave of the future for horse sports.

“I think that platform is the way to go, because it’s only going to get faster and easier,” he told me.

Unquestionably, the WEG worked in Kentucky. We were the first to host eight world championships (para dressage was added this year), we were the first since the 1990 WEG (Stockholm) to have them all on the same grounds, and we were the first to really present the WEG to the public as a full-blown festival revolving around the horse. 

So, will the WEG return to Kentucky? 

“I think it’s been life-changing,” John Long, USEF chief executive officer and chairman of the World Games 2010 Foundation, told me after the games ended. “I think the world shifted a little bit as a result of those 16 days, so, yes, I hope we can do it again.”

O’Connor grimaced at the effort of this one but said, “I think that it should come back to Kentucky at some point. The whole scope of it worked, like no WEG I’ve ever been to before. Obviously 2014 is in Normandy, and I expect the next one will be in Europe, too, but maybe in 2022?”

John Strassburger, Performance Editor

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