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Tourism official to lead WEG

In naming a new chief executive officer Monday, the organizers of the World Equestrian Games turned to a Kentucky tourism official who gained experience at another international sporting this year — the Ryder Cup.

Jamie Link, 46, has served as a deputy secretary of Tourism, Arts and Heritage for Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and is on the WEG Foundation Board that named him as CEO. Link, of Versailles, also had been deputy director of the Kentucky Horse Park, where the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games will take place over 16 days in the fall of 2010.

He will officially begin serving as CEO next Monday but has already begun the transition.

Link, who said Monday that his head was "still kind of spinning" from the new appointment, said he sees his task now as "first and foremost to promote Kentucky Horse Park as the premier equestrian venue in the world."

The games have been without a full-time CEO since Jack Kelly left July 31 for health reasons. Foundation chairman John Long, who is also CEO of the U.S. Equestrian Federation, had been pulling double duty, with some of Kelly's former tasks spread to other officers.

Unlike Kelly, who had been involved in other major sporting events such as the Olympics and Goodwill Games, Link's experience until recently primarily has been in state government. But Link was the state's point person on the recent Ryder Cup golf championship in Louisville, experience that he said will serve him well now.

He began his career in state government with the state parks department, then he worked in the Finance and Administration Cabinet, where he helped oversee the contracting and building of the new $113 million Transportation Cabinet building.

Link said he plans to focus right now on park infrastructure and event staffing.

"Getting a lot of on-the-ground planning in place, as far as the facilities go ... that's one of the first things I want to get my arms around," Link said. The new indoor arena is ahead of schedule and the outdoor stadium, which must be ready for the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event in April, should be completed on time, he said.

"Jamie's absolutely the right guy," Long said Monday after the announcement. Link has been very involved in contract negotiations for things like temporary structures, he said. "And coming from state government is going to be helpful."

Long said that WEG recruited Link, and that there was no pressure from the state.

He said there still are a lot of critical moving pieces that have to be pulled together, such as security, parking, communication devices, waste management, energy and food services, in addition to sponsorships and ticket sales.

The games, which will decide world champions in eight equestrian sports, are expected to attract more than 600,000 ticketed spectators from at least 60 countries. As many as 800 athletes and 900 horses will take part in sports to be televised around the world and seen by as many as 500 million people.