The Games go on to Normandy

awilson1@herald-leader.comOctober 11, 2010 

WEGSS-Closing

Laurent Beauvais, president of lower Normandy, held the water presented to him during the closing ceremony by first lady Jane Beshear, a tradition begun in Aachen, Germany.

CHARLES BERTRAM | STAFF

Fabien Grobon, chief executive officer of the World Equestrian Games for Normandy in 2014, explained last week that he will not have the hills that Kentucky has had to climb in 2010 to present "this wonderful fortnight."

For starters, equestrian sports are the third most popular in France, behind soccer and tennis. That is, said the man who ran the French Open for 10 years, not like here — where organizers were competing against the National Football League and basketball for sports fans' attention.

"Equestrian sports aren't even shown on TV here," he said.

Secondly, the Georgia Tech Class of '91 management grad said, Kentucky started with $1 million in the bank; he is starting with $69 million.

And his project, which is more correctly viewed as a small part of an economic development project for the entire region, is already 80 percent funded; his venues, including a 22,500-capacity stadium, already built.

The vision for the next World Equestrian Games is simple: Sell the visitor on the history, the food, the culture, the landscape, the France of Normandy, all the while thinking of the Games experience as more compact, both out of necessity and desire.

There will be no long walks between the two main venues, assured Grobon, who said it would be only a five-minute trip between the venues and the city center where athletes, press and spectators can be housed.

When asked if tickets to single events would approach the cost of those at the U.S. Games, Grobon said simply, "No."

Grobon explained that his country faces challenges that Kentucky conquered with little effort.

"It's been a nice challenge to see a minimum of where we need to be in four years," Grobon said. "But we do not have 650 standing stables. We do not have room for trucks to pass."

They will, of course, set up temporarily what they need to stable horses on the grounds that surround the stadium and historic racetrack to be used for the events.

What was most critical for the Normandy team to learn from the Kentucky Games was the importance of "footing," said Grobon. Because, he said, without exception, the world's athletes have remarked on the preparation of the surfaces and the safety that affords their horses.

The footing, Grobon said, was "fabulous."

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