DATE: 24th August 2012
The Duke of Grafton has officially opened the Longines FEI World Endurance Championship 2012 set to be held tomorrow (25th August 2012) at Euston Park near Thetford, Suffolk.
Speaking at a lavish opening ceremony held last night at Euston Hall, the Duke welcomed 153 athletes and crews from 38 nations.
Around 2000 guests included team members, crews and supporters who were also joined by UK Minister of Sport Hugh Robertson MP.
The Duke of Grafton said: “This gathering of 153 of the world’s leading endurance riders from all corners of the globe is the culmination of nearly a decade of development of Euston as a venue for the world’s fastest growing equestrian sport. It has been a hugely enjoyable process and it is a great honour to see you all here.
“At that first endurance ride held here in 2005 – there was a considerably smaller field, but nonetheless, it was my late father’s vision that one day, we would host a World Championship. It is sad for myself and family, that he is not here to see that dream realised, but I know that he would have been proud, to welcome you here today.
“Euston Hall has been the home of the Dukes of Grafton for more than 300 years. Traditionally renowned for their love of horse racing, the third and fourth Dukes could often be seen in this very parkland admiring the many successful horses they bred and trained. The Euston Estate comprises a rich mixture of woods and arable land and this, together with the generous support of neighbouring landowners, we hope will provide a stunning setting for a memorable sporting occasion.
“This wonderful course and spectacular venue would not however be possible without the support of our sponsors and I would like to add my thanks and those of the organizing committee to Longines, Meydan and to Emaar.
“I also want to pay tribute to all those who have worked tirelessly since we were awarded the honour of hosting the championships 15 months ago.
“It has been a fantastic summer of competitive sport with the European Football Cup and we have just enjoyed 16 days of glorious sporting action at the London 2012 Olympics, thanks in no small part to a huge army of volunteers – the Games Makers. Well we have our own team of Games Makers here in Suffolk, as there will be around 100 volunteers involved over the next few days, and I would like to thank them for their efforts.
“Finally to the riders, crews and supporters. To compete for your country at this level takes years of dedication and hard work to develop the special partnership between horse and rider and supreme athleticism to complete that grueling 100 miles in one day.
“I along with all the supporters here wish the very best of luck and great success for this exceptional competition that lies ahead.”
Ian Williams, Director of Non-Olympic Sports for the FEI said: “After so many months of planning, and dedicated hard work, we are now all here at the start of this World Championship.
“On behalf of the FEI President, her Royal Highness Princess Haya, we wish everyone an exciting, competitive and above all safe championship.
“On Sunday we will gather here again to present the FEI medals to those teams and individuals who have excelled at the very highest level of their sport.”
The event will see a star-studded field of riders and horses including three former world champions tackle the 160km (100-mile) championship course in a single day.
The 14th running of the championships will see the current holder, Spain’s Maria Alvarez Ponton, attempt to match the USA’s Becky Hart in winning three World titles in succession – a feat first achieved by Hart in 1988, 1990 and 1992 with the great RO Grand Sultan.
Alvarez will partner her 17-year-old superstar Nobby as the pair attempt to make
Meanwhile HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, whose son Sheikh Ahmed won the world individual title in 2002 at the age of just 16 and one of the world’s leading racehorse owners, is also taking part leading a strong UAE defence of its world team title for the third time in succession.
A total of 29 teams have entered the championship including the host nation Great Britain who were last on the medal table at the 2000 World Championships in Compiegne, France.
Several landowners and farmers have given access to their land to enable the organisers to create a 100-mile route over the Breckland course covering heathland, forest tracks and open farmland. Hundreds of local volunteers will be involved in the event which is expected to draw around 2000 people including participants, crew, officials and spectactors.
The opening event was devised by show director Pierre Marcout together with Gilles Ledos and Jean Marc Chandoo of Prisme International.
Alongside title sponsor Longines, two Dubai industry giants, Meydan and Emaar Properties are additional supporters of the championships.
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