The first step in my adventure as a volunteer for the endurance phase of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games was taken July 26, 2010, when I attended my first volunteer training meeting. It is estimated there will be about 8,000 volunteers and World Equestrian Games Foundation staff working during the Games. Many of the workers have come from places other than the Lexington area, taking their vacations to volunteer. The room was abuzz with excitement about what was to come, the anticipation heightened by a beautiful promotional video played on a big screen in the front of the room.
We were told that the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games will be the largest equine event ever held in the United States, and the largest, over the 14 days, sporting event ever held in Kentucky. Just typing this sentence gives me chills! I have attended the Kentucky Derby many times, never considering the logistical and safety challenges the staff of that event must face. When I think of Derby day, I think of traffic problems. During the World Games, traffic heading to the Horse Park will be re-routed directionally so all traffic enters from one direction and exits heading the opposite direction. All left turns into and out of the Park are eliminated, which will speed up the overall traffic flow. Several different traffic and parking scenarios have been proposed so everyone attending the Games should remember that the traffic, the lines, the crowds, and the excitement level will be on a grand scale. Car-pool. Be patient. Be courteous—words to live by.
At this training session we were given a few tips about cultural differences in behavior and saw a video about conflict resolution. A list of responsibilities and expectations was discussed which included things like where the volunteers are to park, check in times, wearing clean uniforms, and that we are not to light fires. Now I enjoy a crackling campfire but I would not think of starting one at the Horse Park! We were told what to do if someone approaches and states that they want to “defect.” If anyone in the room did not understand that this will be an international event, perhaps this discussion drove the point home. There will be people from 59 countries participating in the games. You know they are going to love our beautiful Bluegrass area!
As volunteers we must wear specific uniforms that consist of provided polo shirts, a jacket, a hat (we must wear the bill forward) and a cinch pack for the personal things we need to survive our shift. We are to wear long khaki pants, but they are not provided. I do not know what the shirts will look like yet, but they will surely be better than the ones we were given for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. I worked there as an equine therapist, happily wearing the way-oversized shirt with its gaudy design of blue and turquoise loops and circles. You could easily pick out the workers in a crowd and perhaps that is the idea. As during the Olympics, workers will all have an accreditation pass to enter the Park. We must show this pass for access to our venue.
My work venue will be the endurance test, which is like a marathon race. The horses will run a 160-kilometer course laid out through the Park and surrounding farms. Team and individual championships will be determined and the veterinary commission will select a horse that finishes in the best condition. I truly look forward to watching this demanding event and to doing my small part to make it happen. I will be checking back in with updates as we get closer to the opening of the Games. See you there!