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The Premier Source for Dressage News and Commentary
Kenneth Kraus
June 10, 2014
A Conversation with Bromont's Roger Deslauriers
By Kenneth Kraus
Tuesday, June 10, 2014 :: Posted 04:47:36 PM UTC

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© file: Bromont

As you might have read, the race to host the 2018 World Equestrian Games is over and Bromont, Canada has won the rights over a return to Lexington, Kentucky.

This will be the first time in the history of the World Equestrian Games that the prestigious event has ever been held in Canada and only the second time outside of Europe, with the first time being in 2010 in Lexington, KY.

According to Equine Canada, the Bromont Olympic Equestrian Park will also be expanded and enhanced so the eight FEI disciplines of jumping, dressage, eventing, para-dressage, reining, driving, endurance and vaulting will have top-notch, world class competition facilities. This will leave the already outstanding equestrian venue in Bromont as a legacy to Canadian equestrian sport.

WEG 2018 will be the largest single sporting event ever held in Canada with 4,500 accredited participants, from 65 countries, with an estimated 500,000 spectators.

The FEI World Equestrian Games are held every four years, in the middle of the Olympic cycle. The eight FEI disciplines are all included on the competition schedule. The inaugural FEI World Equestrian Games were hosted in Stockholm (SWE) in 1990. Since then the Games have been staged in The Hague (NED) in 1994, Rome (ITA) in 1998, Jerez (ESP) in 2002, Aachen (GER) in 2006, and Kentucky (USA). The 2014 Games will be held in Normandy, FRA, from August 23 to September 7.

We wanted to get the latest inside information, so who better to talk to than the man who has worked tirelessly to get the WEG to Bromont. We caught up with him yesterday, just hours after the bid was announced. We hope you enjoy our conversation with Roger Deslauriers.

 © personal collection: Roger Deslauriers
Roger Deslauriers

Roger thanks for taking time to talk with us, I know today must be a very hectic – but happy – day for you.

I can’t seem to get off the telephone today (laughs) but for you Kenny, I’m in my comfortable chair and I’m all set to go.

How long have you been working on this bid to bring the World Equestrian Games to Bromont, Canada?

About seven or eight years ago I prepared the place for that. What I did, I asked many combinations of jumping, at the beginning I was only interested in jumping, but then we had the eventing and now we are the biggest driving event in Canada, 3-star and it’s doing well. I’ve had the driving since three years ago and now we are under FEI. My course designer, Mr Richard Nicoll (USA), who is the course designer for Normandy, France as well. I have Mr. Richard Papens (BEL), who is the TD in France. I try to grab the best officials of their disciplines from a high level, FEI level. That was my plan when I started, seven or eight years ago. To prove to the FEI we can organize all these events on the same land, on the same place. Because we have about 500 acres here and we have really improved the facilities, in fact, we’ve spent about 3 million, and that’s how I did it to convince them of that.

So, with your background, you’ve got show jumping down pat, you’ve been doing that forever, now you’ve got to prepare for all of the other disciplines, right?

Show Jumping, I’ve been doing forever (laughs). I have the three-day event; we’ve been doing it for 30 years. On the biggest scale, it’s about 10-15 years. That’s the only big driving organization in Canada, then we do dressage, we’ll have the Quebec championship in dressage in September, and so it’s going along like that. We organize a lot of small events for the region. We like to build up the sport from the grassroots to the professional. We have a goal and that’s the thinking to build the sport.

© WEG2018: WEG 2018 - panorama
Bromont WEG panorama

Please try and describe your feelings when you heard the word that you had indeed prevailed over Lexington for the 2018 WEG?

I don’t know, I’m pretty excited, for sure. The biggest part for me was to know that I finally had the financial plan in order. The FEI after Lexington asked the organizing committee for the year coming, to have 30% of the operation budget guaranteed by public money. I think that was the hardest job. It’s not easy to sell partnership in business, partnership in a show, before you have the games, before you have the show. It’s not easy. It was hard. I got my money from the provincial government, which was 9 million from Montreal and 2 million from the city of Bromont. The hardest part was to put that together before we had the show.

Lexington was a formidable opponent. After all, they’d already had a successful WEG. They have a great facility.

Actually, I was not that afraid, and I’ll tell you why. I was not that afraid. The FEI is more smart than that. I was not sure they would go twice to the same place. I think they have to promote a product in other countries instead of promoting at the same place. When you want to have a shopping center you have it at two places, not at the same location. I said to myself, if I can find the finance, I’m in business

Were you surprised that is was a unanimous decision in favor of Bromont?

Yes it was unanimous, but after we find the money (laughs). And was I surprised, no, not really, I was confident. I’ve been working hard, and we’ve had the chance to meet with the FEI last July and we met with them three or four occasions this spring and they were quite welcoming. They were convincing, but, their bottom line was, they said you have to come up with the 30% guarantee and we worked hard at it.

That must have been the hardest part, working with politicians.

Oh ****! You have no idea, my friend. I went through three different governments. I started four years ago with the liberal party, the Parti vert du Québec/ Party of Québec come on board. They were not left or right, they were in the middle. Eighteen months, and I finally got my money from them on November 2. I finally convinced them after one year (laughs). I never sell them the sport with the horses; I sell them the sport with the economy. I talk about business, income, economy, you give a dollar, I’ll bring back 10 dollars. So, I rarely talk about horses, only the economic benefit they can provide. The study we made prove the economy will be $350 million for eastern Canada. And, we’ll be less expensive to produce than Lexington.

© file: Alwin Schockemöhle on Warwick Rex at Montreal 1976
Alwin Schockemöhle on Warwick Rex was the Olympic Champion at Montreal 1976 but the Nations Cup was held in Olympic Stadium in Montreal

Talk about your venue.  Of course, for those of us old enough, we remember the 1976 equestrian events from the Montreal Olympic Games and we really enjoyed the North American Young Riders when they were held there, but talk about the facility, the improvements and what we can expect by the time WEG rolls around?

I still need two main buildings. I need to build one this fall. A pavilion with an office, skybox and big restaurant, we're going to have room for 650 people with bathrooms, soon we’ll build that, and then our equestrian federation is moving here full time to operate the sport from here. It brings 15 employees year round. And we have had that on our mind for many years, they are ready to move. We’re just not ready to receive them. We have to build for them. It’s going to be used also for the FEI for the office. Also, we’ll build an million dollar indoor arena, 100m long by 80m wide, 2500 permanent seats, plus room for many more during WEG. Well build that and attached, 150 stalls for the winter and a schooling ring. The plans are done, the place is there. Start this fall and it will be done. Our main goal, the one thing we want to do is leave a legacy for the future of the sport.

And you have no fears about deadlines and getting things done in time?

No, no fears whatsoever.

OK, no fears. But, now that you’ve won the bid, what worries you the most?

Nothing. I think the possibilities are excellent here, Quebec is very happy and very supportive. The economy in Quebec in Canada is very good. The possibility, the technical aspect, that doesn’t worry me, because we always have the merchandise here, good year, bad year, we always deliver, so that doesn’t bother me. We have a good group, I am surrounded by good people, they’ve all worked for me a lot, all those guys, have been behind me to get the space ready for the FEI, no I’m not worried. The construction is not that expensive and many places on the property are ready to receive construction since when we did build up the place in 2010, we had it ready. It’s a matter of putting everything together.

© WEG2018: WEG 2018 - main outdoor arena
Bromont's main outdoor arena

So, your biggest expense so far has been in plans and blueprints (laughs).

Everything is there. I have the plan already of the arena, I even have the price, and we have no surprise so far. The city is very involved. Here in Bromont, it is the 50th anniversary of the city. It’s a very young city. It used to be an English village called West Sheppard and this year we are having the 50th year anniversary starting the 14th of June. The city is behind us, very involved, the economy is fantastic. We have to lodge about 250 officials, but everything is in place. We would like to do the games the last two weeks of August, so we’ll try to do them before school starts and after the big jam of tourism is starting to die down a bit. The weather is nice that time of year.

And that should help free up the hotel rooms for those coming to the Games, no?

No, no, exactly.

You’ve worked so hard for this, you’ve got to be excited.

I am excited, but I am also a realist (laughs). I was here when we built the Olympic Games, so that will help me a lot. I was involved in the preparation for bid to receive the Olympic Games here in Bromont for the equestrian sport. And we built the place. Actually, I rode myself in the 3-day event at the Olympic Games and at the end I decided to work because I have children and a family to support and I didn’t think I’d be able to do that riding (laughs). I decided to be involved in the organization, so that leaves me a good background.

© WEG2018: WEG 2018 - main reception and judges box
Artist's concept of main reception and judges box
© WEG2018: WEG 2018 - Indoor competition and stables design
Indoor competition and stables design

So you said that all started in 1970?

I arrived in Bromont in 1970 and we were awarded the Games in 1974 and we started to build in the fall of 1974 to be ready in 75 for the Games in 76. So, I’m not worried about getting dome what we need to get done for WEG in 2018.

Has the government gotten behind you on this and what are your thoughts about their ongoing support?

They are very supportive. It’s a new government. When a government changes, you start all over with the paperwork. I had to go fast to convince them to be behind us. It’s a liberal party. The Minister of Agriculture is a horseman. He rides and is a good friend of mine. He is right behind the sport.

Well, we wish you all of the luck in the world going forward and let’s stay in touch, ok?

For you Kenny, I’m always available.

© WEG2018: WEG 2018 - map location

© WEG2018: WEG 2018 - venue site plan

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