Italy may not take over 1998 Games


Following the collapse of Ireland's 1998 World Equestrian Games project on Tuesday due to lack of funding, there are now serious doubts about Italy's willingness to take over the multi-million pound venture at such short notice.

Dr Bo Helander, secretary general of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), stated on Tuesday that next year's six-discipline Games could be moved to Rome, but Italy's national federation is less than keen to undertake a multi-billion lire project without a financial commitment from the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI).

Italian Federation president Cesare Croce was contacted by Dr Helander on Tuesday, but stated that he could not confirm whether Rome would host the 1998 Games until a meeting with CONI president Roberto Pescante had taken place.

Last summer when WEG Ireland first hit financial difficulties, former international show jumper Mauro Ceccioli, then president of the Italian Federation, stated that Italy was prepared to take over the Games if the Irish scheme foundered.

But Ceccioli's eight-year term of office ended last December and his successor, Croce, is now less than keen to pick up the pieces left by the Irish downfall.

He says that only the guarantee of financial aid from CONI, which is funded by the enormously wealthy Italian lottery, would persuade the Italian Federation to take over the running of the 1998 Games.

Croce and CONI's Roberto Pescante are due to meet in Rome today, but Croce has already stated that any decision on Italy hosting the Equestrian Games is likely to be put on the long finger. However, it is unlikely that the FEI will be prepared to stall for a further seven weeks and contingency plans are already being made to split the World Equestrian Games into separate championships if the Italians decline the invitation to act as hosts next year.

The Mexicans have already volunteered to have both the show jumping and dressage in Monterrey, but there is no doubt that a decision to revert to single discipline championships could spell an end to the whole concept of a World Equestrian Games, which has had such a chequered career in its short seven-year history.