By Jo de Roo
Photography: Sébastien Boulanger
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is enormous, with many events beng cancelled due to the virus. This now includes the WBCYH in Lanaken, and its organizer Judy Ann Melchior, who describes it as ‘one of the most beautiful equestrian events of the year for us.’
The showjumping FEI-WBFSH World Breeding Championship for Young Horses, which was due to take place from September 16-20 was already destined to be reshaped in 2020 due to restrictions imposed by Covid-19. In a press release Judy Ann Melchior wrote: “The FEI-WBFSH Jumping World Breeding Championship for Young Horses, which was due to take place from September 16-20, was destined to be reshaped in 2020 due to the restrictions concerning the Covid-19 pandemic. Until the last minute, the organization tried to redraw the plans and create an event that would be as safe as possible for everyone; for riders, breeders, visitors and employees as well as for the horses. The decisions taken during the Belgian Security Council of July 27, however, obliged us to cancel this year’s edition of our beloved event definitively. Although it is with regret in our heart, the organization of course respects the measures taken by the government in function of general public health.” On behalf of World Breeding News, I interviewed Judy Ann Melchior on this topic, as well as Mr Marino Keulen (the Mayor of Lanaken), as well as several riders, and the breeder of one of the world champions.
Judy Ann Melchior
Q Judy Ann, did you imagine, at the end of March, when we were at the beginning of the pandemic, that you might have to cancel the FEI-WBFSH Longines WBCYH in September, or did you think that the crisis would be over?
I was afraid of it. On the other hand, I was waiting to see how this crisis was evolving. I don’t have any knowledge about this virus. I was hopeful that this virus would attenuate a little bit during the summer. At that moment it was difficult to estimate. We carefully started up the organization, with a certain restraint.
Q Was it a difficult decision to make?
No, because the situation was very clear. If I’d had to cancel this world championship in March, it would have been very difficult. Because of our careful start up, we could wait quite late to take our decision. Of course, it is a pity that we have to cancel this event. During the whole year before the start we are looking forward to this happening. We received several signals telling that the virus was evolving in a bad way. We may not organize a great event with many spectators.
Q Who decided to cancel the event?
The decision to cancel this event was based on a dialogue between ourselves and the Lanaken municipality. But of course, the stricter measures were taken the day before by the Security Council. Once these measures were taken, the situation was very clear. It was not the right moment to bring together many people. You must not forget that we count almost 80,000 spectators during our WBCYH event, coming from Europe, South America, Canada, and so on.
Q In case of an outdoor event, you are allowed to welcome 200 spectators.
Yes and no. It’s the municipality that takes the decision. Each municipality decides on its own. Nowadays, we have a dialogue with the Lanaken municipality about the organization of the Belgian championship showjumping, a closed-door event, so without spectators. Even that is not easy. The Security Council announces several measures, but in each municipality it can be different.
Q Are you aware of Covid-19 cases in your environment?
In our inner circle we were lucky that nobody was infected. However, family members of some of our employees as well as one of our suppliers were unfortunately tested positive. In our company nobody has been infected. We have taken many measures. We also made use of work-at-home and worked with several teams who didn’t have physical contact.’
Q Beyond the sporting impact, the cancellation of the FEI-WBFSH Longines WBCYH, what is the economic impact for the socio-professionals of horse breeding faithful to the event?
That a difficult question. I know that this world championship means a lot for many people. On the occasion of this event there is a flourishing trade. For many people, 2020 will be or become a difficult year. Each event, such as for instance the Z-festival, is a market place where sellers and buyers can meet each other. Thanks to live-stream one can watch in real time several events. Many people who don’t have a great network could make use of events in order to meet other people, to show their breeding or showjumping products and so on. I am not particular speaking about our events, but more in general... To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber
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