Here in Tryon, North Carolina, for the World Equestrian Games (WEG), some people haven’t arrived yet, and some are already leaving. Hurricane Florence has a lot of people freaked, and it’s not even due for three days. As always with hurricanes, it’s good to be prepared and, as always with hurricanes, there’s really no way to know how bad it will be until it arrives.
I keep thinking about all the people trying to fly here over the next few days. Not all the horses are here yet, either, although many are stabled off the WEG grounds and are due to trailer here next weekend. What you should know is that Tryon is where people evacuate the horses that live in the coastal Carolinas. We’re 300 miles inland. We may get very wet. We may lose power. But, we should be safe.
In the meantime, the WEG site is firing up for the Opening Ceremonies. The dressage jog was held this morning, and all the key team horses passed. It was a lot of fun to be there and see famous faces up close that I usually see in pictures. Unfortunately for spectators, the future jog and warmup areas are considered “field of play” and are open only to officials and team members.
The Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) is still very much a work in progress. The press center is being built around us as we work. (At least we have electricity now.) I can’t say how things will go for spectators—the stands look pretty good, but I know the steeplechase track well where spectator parking will be. I’m hoping it will not become slick with deep wet clay.
The U.S. team spoke at a brief press conference yesterday and emphasized that the conditions for the horses are excellent. “Over in dressage land, it’s great,” said Adrienne Lyle. It’s nicely condensed. The stadium looks fantastic.” One of the hallmarks of TIEC when it was designed and built in 2014 was that the arrangement of stalls, warmup areas and competition areas would be horse-friendly, and that has all be in place for four years now.
I’ve covered the equestrian events at seven Olympic Games. This feels similar in scope, but one wonderful difference is that there are eight disciplines here, not just three. I saw an Oman endurance rider passing by the dressage jog this morning. There were fellows in cowboy hats (no breeches!) in the food line. Those are just not sights you would see at the Olympics.
In the leadup over the last three days, I have been seeing people in team apparel all over the Tryon area. The best spot so far for me, outside of TIEC, is my local supermarket, Ingles in Landrum, South Carolina, just over the state line. I’ve had fun directing team people where to find sun block and bottled water and wishing them luck.
Tonight, I’m due to be carrying a flag in the Opening Ceremony and then be back here at 6:30 to get set to scribe. The Games are on!