The topsy-turvy saga of the 2021 FEI European Eventing Championships rages on afresh after news that three venues’ organising teams have made bids to host the competition, tentatively scheduled for this autumn. Italy’s Montelibretti, Switzerland’s Avenches, and the Netherlands’ Boekelo have all registered their interest in hosting the championship.
This isn’t, of course, the first time we’ve seen the European Championships pencilled into this year’s calendar. Both the eventing championship – originally scheduled to take place at France’s Haras du Pin from August 11–15 – and the showjumping and dressage championships, intended to run in Budapest, Hungary from August 23–30, were initially cancelled after the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. But a successful push for reconsideration saw the latter two disciplines granted relocated and rescheduled dates for their championships – while eventing remained firmly off the table throughout the latter half of 2020.
The bidding process was reopened in December after a campaign, spearheaded by reigning Reserve European Champion Michael Jung, built up a considerable head of steam across social media. Jung cited the new Olympic format, which will see just three horses and riders to a team, as one of the primary motivators for the reinstatement of the Championships, which provide essential mileage to developing nations and inexperienced combinations.
A spokesman for the FEI told Horse&Hound that an initial bidding process had been opened with a July 21, 2020 deadline, and three venues had applied to host the Championships through that process – Haras du Pin, Ireland’s Millstreet, and an unnamed third venue.
“Due to the third organising committee’s relative inexperience of hosting an event on the scale of the European Championships, this expression of interest did not proceed to the formal bidding/applicant stage,” the spokesman said, continuing on to explain that the other two bids had been reviewed, with the FEI offering significant financial support to ease the burden on the organisers.
But, the spokesman explained, “ultimately, Haras du Pin and Millstreet voluntarily withdrew from the process, due to their limitation to hold the championships on the selected dates and ongoing concerns around Covid-19. Following the withdrawal, and on the understanding that the Olympics would go ahead in 2021, the FEI board agreed not to re-open the bidding process for the eventing Europeans.”
The FEI made a U-turn on their decision on December 17, reopening the bidding process for a shortened window from December 18 through January 15, 2021. The three venues to come forward have proposed their own set of dates, all falling well after the Tokyo Games.
Switzerland’s Avenches has submitted a bid for September 22–26 after Jung cited them as a “a motivated and experienced team […] which has shown it has what is needed: very good facilities, experience, financial strength and more essential key criteria you need to host an event like this.” Though the venue ordinarily hosts competitions up to CCI4*-S, it has considerable infrastructure to support an event of this scale, and in 2008 was the host of the Pony European Championships.
Rome’s Montelibretti is set to host three international fixtures in 2021, and has proposed to host the Championship separately, from September 22–26. Though the Italian fixture hasn’t hosted a Senior Championship, it was the home of the 2016 Junior and Young Rider European Championships, and hosted the rescheduled finale of the 2020 Nations Cup series.
Military Boekelo has proposed to run the Championship from October 6–10, coinciding with the event’s confirmed dates in the 2021 FEI calendar. The venue, which hosts the Nations Cup series finale and is based an hour from Amsterdam, had originally bid to host the full spectrum of FEI Championships in 2023 in conjunction with Geesteren, though that joint bid was subsequently withdrawn.
The final decision will be made in March via teleconference.