Mark Bellissimo, the guiding force behind the FEI World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018 (WEG), gave a presentation to US Equestrian Annual Meeting attendees on Wednesday. He provided his background, the vision for his properties, and details about the WEG and accompanying World Equine Expo.
Bellissimo and his team operate five equestrian venues, including the Tryon International Equestrian Center, the home of the 2018 WEG, and several major competitions, such as the 12-week Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Fla. Personally, Bellissimo owns The Chronicle of the Horse, a top equestrian sport magazine.
Bellissimo has developed an exciting vision for the equestrian properties that he manages. His team’s vision is growing horse sport by creating family-oriented equestrian destinations that are focused on creating sport, entertainment, lifestyle, and commerce centered on the love of horses. “Our fundamental vision isn’t about a particular event or a particular discipline or a particular group of horses,” Bellissimo said of the overarching idea.
He has studied the equestrian market in an effort to help grow the sport and its fan base. Many segments of horse sport are struggling with their participation levels due to fewer people entering the sport and a large group aging out. With other sports in the U.S. experiencing difficulties with participant and spectator numbers, their leaders are working to develop new models. Bellissimo believes equestrian sport needs to take the same approach to last. He noted that sponsors and spectators are often put off by the perceived elitism attached to equestrian sport. “At the end of the day, if this sport is a sport of heirs and heiresses, you will lose long term. You will absolutely lose long term. This sport has to be accessible--and [accessible] at the highest levels.”
Bellissimo hopes to put his ideas to the test at the 2018 WEG. The WEG will have over 500,000 attendees, it will be the largest sporting event in the U.S. in 2018, and the fourth largest sporting event in the world in 2018. In addition, there will a televised global feed and 60 hours of U.S. television coverage. While the competition at the WEG is the main focus, the World Equine Expo is an important project to Bellissimo.
The World Equine Expo aims to grow and engage the equestrian fan base. Numerous aspects of the industry will be covered with specialists on horsemanship; therapeutic riding; equine health, sports medicine, and nutrition; and horse welfare. A global trade fair, breed festival, art festival, and film festival are planned for the expo, as well as the WEQx Games, another one of Bellissimo’s unique ideas that is still in the works.
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