The fifth FEI World Equestrian Games held in Aachen will stay in the memory of all equestrian fans for a long time to come. With 576,000 spectators attending the competitions and media coverage of an unprecedented scale, the games were clearly a remarkable public and sporting success demonstrating the potential of equestrian sport to an enormous audience.
The Games began for the first time with Endurance and was accompanied by torrential downpours; however, the sight of the drenched leaders coming into the stadium cheered by the enthusiastic crowd was an emotional occasion not to be missed.
The Dressage Team event followed predictable lines and it was in the Individual competitions that the real excitement was to be found. While not all were convinced with the two medal formula – one for the Grand Prix and one for the Freestyle – there was little doubt at the end of the day, that two world champions had been crowned.
Aachen’s smaller indoor arena – Stadium 3 – provided the surprise success stories of the Games and witnessed many emotional and loud moments. Reining and Vaulting are arguably the most disparate of disciplines but in terms of passion and excitement they exceeded all expectations. The original concept of the FEI World Equestrian Games was to give fans of one discipline a chance to see another. Aachen provided that opportunity and both Vaulting and Reining showed that they stand proud with the longer and more established sports.
Eventing held its breath: the first four-star Championship without steeple chase, a new venue, torrential rain and inexperienced organisation. But what a success! The cross country course was a master stroke, difficult and challenging but safe. Crowds of tens of thousands just kept pouring in to see the home team dominate. Zara Phillips, who was later elected the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, proved that she has what it takes to be a World Champion by holding her nerve to clinch the individual gold.
Driving saw another great competition, Felix Brasseur’s gold medal was just the start of a great weekend for the Belgians.
Jumping always dominates the coverage of the FEI World Equestrian Games and this time was no exception. However, the real star of the show was the ground in the main arena where, after more rain than anyone could have imagined, the surface remained almost perfect.
Some figures at a glance:
Actual local economic impact: $328 million; 570,000 spectators from 61 nations; 1,700 employees and volunteers; 130 judges; 76 stewards; 100 veterinarians; 965 grooms; 1,200 journalists; 300 photographers; 380 TV crewmembers; 70 hours of television coverage broadcast in 157 countries; 2,500 bales of straw; 5,000 bales of shavings; 66,635 lbs. of hay; 40,000 catered meals; 6,000 honorary guests; 100 hostesses; 300 service/kitchen staff; 270 exhibitors; 68 car and van service vehicles; 120 drivers.
All results as well as other information are available in the FEI History Hub.