Despite criticism, some call World Equestrian Games a success

The World Equestrian Games in Tryon drew harsh criticism from a prominent competitor. The scathing review comes on the heels of disappointing attendance and losses that will add up to well over $1 million. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

The World Equestrian Games in Tryon drew harsh criticism from a prominent competitor. The scathing review comes on the heels of disappointing attendance and losses that will add up to well over $1 million.

In a scathing Facebook post, Canadian competitor Eric Lamaze called it the worst world championships ever held.

“No one expected to turn up and find a dirty, unfinished venue that looked more like a construction zone than a sports venue. It was shameful,” he said.

“To blame the hurricane for all the problems is not a valid excuse. There was a lack of effort, lack of horsemanship ...” Lamaze added.

Despite the critics, Travel & Tourism director Melinda Massey believes overall spectators got a positive taste of Polk County.

“We heard nothing but spectacular remarks from the spectators. They had a great time,” she said. “They understood there was some hiccups and things along the way away, but they had a marvelous experience.”

The games were affected by heavy rain from Hurricane Florence and heat that impacted the horses. The weather lead to the cancellation of an endurance competition.

“Despite the initial setback of having to cancel the endurance race due to the heat and humidity, the rest of the games were a huge success,” said Jake Johnson, chairman of the county board of commissioners.

The estimated attendance was about 200,000 — well below projections. Organizers are expected to lose $1.5 million.

“The approaching hurricane did scare a lot of people away,” said Julia Calhoun, of Tryon Toymakers & Woodcarvers, who says the international crowd gave a boost to downtown. “We didn’t get as many people as we hoped. But the people that did come were lovely, and it was great fun visiting them. You don’t often get to sit in one spot and meet people from 15 to 20 different countries.”

“One of the comments that I’ve heard is that they been to other World Championships and they were always a problem like that,” Massey said. “The difference here is that those problems tonight. They were working every night to improve anything that was an issue.”

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