Safety concerns for horses and riders have led to the plug being pulled on the FEI Endurance World Championships at the 11th hour.
The FEI has reopened the bid process for the 2022 championships after terminating the agreement with the Verona organising committee with less than six weeks to go. The 2022 championships were originally set to be held from 19 to 23 October, but the FEI has now extended the time-frame within which the event can be held to 30 April 2023.
“This was not a decision we took lightly, as we fully understand the ramifications it will have, but we had to take our responsibilities and respect the assessment of our technical experts,” said FEI president Ingmar De Vos.
“We waited until now, because we had genuinely hoped that the issues that had been previously raised with the organising committee would have been resolved following several site visits and meetings, but unfortunately, this was not the case. To cancel earlier would have been premature, and to cancel any later would have been even more disruptive.”
Mr De Vos added there is “no doubt a lot of hard work and commitment” went into planning the event, from the organising committee, the FEI and experts.
“This is really unfortunate for everyone involved but if the experts are of the opinion that the safety of the athletes – both human and equine – cannot be guaranteed, the [FEI] board has no other option but to follow their recommendations,” he said.
The FEI board confirmed the termination of the host agreement in a teleconference yesterday (8 September). This followed FEI concerns over track readiness, athlete safety and the lack of detailed planning schedules in the lead-up to the championship, which was conveyed to the Verona organising committee on 26 August. The committee was given 10 days to remedy the situation and address issues raised.
The board reviewed information from the organising committee, plus feedback from technical delegates. It noted the tight deadlines for the completion of the track, owing to delays in planning and upgrades, plus constraints on carrying out the work until early October as the Fiera del Riso (risotto festival) was taking place at the same venue.
The board concluded the information was “insufficient to justify maintaining the championship”.
“Athletes around the world, as well as national federations have been preparing for this championship, and we are extremely conscious of the impact the cancellation will have on their plans,” said Mr De Vos.
“However, previous experiences have taught us that there is no room for compromise when it comes to athlete and horse welfare. We will now focus all our attention on finding a new host for the FEI Endurance World Championship.”
The bid process will reopen on Monday (12 September). Qualifications will remain valid and the nominated entries will reopen with an extended qualification window.
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