October 10, 2010 -- It's over. Although at times the 16 days of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games seemed endless, especially when I was getting only three or four hours of sleep a night, in retrospect it seems to have slipped by quite quickly.
The WEG went out in a flash of brilliance for the U.S. after a nine-day medal drought, as the vaulting team claimed gold, the driving team earned silver and Tucker Johnson ended his driving career with an individual bronze.
I don't like medal counts, but for those of you who are curious, Great Britain topped the list with 20 (many of which were courtesy of its para-equestrians); Germany had 19; the Netherlands, 9, and the USA 8. If you're keeping track, that's three in reining; the two in dressage won by Steffen Peters and the three I mentioned above.
Closing ceremonies were far more low-key than the long and lavish opening ceremonies. We listened to a few speeches from the usual suspects and then it was time for a terrific concert by Lyle Lovett that rocked the stadium. The sacrosanct arena floor, where we could not tread for nearly three weeks, suddenly was open to all. People streamed down the steps to dance and sway on the perfect footing. Many folks somehow got their hands on silver, red and yellow shakers (the kind cheerleaders use) to wave in time to the music.
It was fun and festive, with lots of powder blue-shirted volunteers in the mix. I saw a woman in a baseball cap in the pattern of the Australian flag, with an American flag stuck in the back band. Isn't that what the WEG was all about, nation meeting nation; nation appreciating nation?
The day started with a wrap-up press conference for the WEG featuring, among others, FEI President Princess Haya and World Games Foundation 2010 CEO Jamie Link.
Princess Haya called the WEG, which attracted more than 500,00 visitors (counting athletes, volunteers and children) "a phenomenal success."
She also noted it was "commercially successful." The final figures are not available, but Jamie said since the foundation is non-profit, its final report will be available to the public. That should be interesting reading.
After the press conference, he and I had a very interesting talk. I suggest that you listen if you're interested in the WEG, this one and the one to follow four years from now in Normandy, France.
Many people asked me when the WEG would come back to Kentucky. I always replied, "Never," figuring it would move around the world as it always has, rather than being held in the same place twice. And I also figured Kentucky wouldn't bid for it again anyway. But Jamie had another thought.
What did I think of the Games? I think they came off very well in general, and especially in terms of the competition, which was nicely staged and memorable. It's an enormous undertaking. The public has no idea what goes on behind the scenes, and there are always problems, solvable problems, at any large event, but they require a lot of work.
Things I didn't like? The food; too expensive. Hotels; too expensive (unless you were smart enough to wait and book them right before the WEG, rather than months before.) The trade fair and other attractions, such as the Alltech Experience; too far away from the main stadium.
Biggest surprise? The way the traffic moved. Electric signs warned of back-ups, but I never experienced them coming into the venue. I did hear stories of people having to wait a while to leave, but because I always stayed late, I didn't encounter that.
What I liked best besides the competition? The volunteers. I'll tell you a little more about them further down, but now I need to get back to the driving, which is where I spent most of my time this afternoon.
An electronic timing failure wreaked a little bit of havoc in the cones phase. The USA's Chester Weber drove into the ring, then had to drive out, then drove in and had to drive out again. Finally, after an annoying delay, they got things working.