The Legacy of Kentucky's WEG
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The 2010 Alltech World Equestrian Games are no more. The international sporting event that awarded championship titles in eight equine disciplines wrapped up at the Kentucky Horse Park Sunday after a 16-day run. When all the horses are shipped back to their home stables, and all the pavilions and temporary seating taken down, what will be the legacy of this year's WEG?
On the final day of competition, attendance at the World Equestrian Games topped half a million. 507,022 to be exact, according to event officials. Here's what some of those spectators had to say about their WEG experience.
"We were pretty impressed given it was the first time it's been in the United States. And it was this close; it was just something we couldn't miss."
"I was impressed with the grounds and all the work they've done. It's a lot of walking, but I thought it was very good. We went to the vaulting event, enjoyed that."
"The shuttles are great. We had to wait a long time, but they are great. And we had to search a long time to find something to drink and then a place to sit with our drinks. The Dutch are used to drinks and sitting down at the same time."
"It was nice. It wasn't as crowded as I thought it would be. We went to the driving competition and everything was nice, real nice."
This year marked the first time the World Games were held outside Europe. The Kentucky Horse Park proved to be a unique facility, able to house all disciplines at one location. But the size of the park also meant a lot of walking for spectators and the heavy use of golf carts for event organizers athletes.
Luiza Tavares de Almeida is a Brazilian dressage rider.
"It has really been a dream for me, being here. It's the first time that Brazil has the entire team competing in dressage, so my experience has been amazing. The whole structure for the horses and for the riders is perfect. It's very well-organized; everything that we need, we have."
The 2010 World Games were marred by a security breach during the final weekend, when a Dutch carriage used in the combined driving competition was vandalized. An investigation into what happened is ongoing.
Australian eventer Peter Atkins had this criticism of WEG:
"The ticket prices were way too high for the general public. Most people who event or the lower-level show jumpers just can't afford the prices. I know a lot of people that wanted to come, wouldn't come because of how expensive the tickets were."
Atkins says he is pleased, however, with the high level of care provided to the 750 horses that competed at the games. Despite the security breach, no horses were harmed, and any horses injured during competition were treated immediately and are expected to make full recoveries.
But what does it all mean for the people at the top the officials in charge of planning and overseeing the games? Jamie Link, CEO of the non-profit World Games Foundation, will be looking at the bottom line.
"My goal is to break even, or do better, possibly. So if at the end of the day, the balance sheet is zero, where the assets are equal to the liabilities and everything is paid, to me that is a huge success."
The WEG foundation will report its final financial statement to the IRS and to the international governing body of horse sport sometime in November.
Before WEG, a University of Louisville economist estimated that the economic impact of the games would total around $167 million for Kentucky.
John Long is CEO of the United States Equestrian Federation, which is headquartered at the Horse Park. He believes the 2010 World Equestrian Games reflected the soul of the Bluegrass State, and that because of WEG, Kentucky has changed for the better.
"I think that it's going to impart a sense of confidence and pride that we really pulled it off, that we were the center of the universe for those 16 days. And that confidence and pride is going to allow us to do other bigger and greater things. So I think that's part of the legacy as well."