"Chantilly will be the French Aachen" Christophe Ameeuw
Christophe Ameeuw and his teams have been through many crises. First, they had to cancel the very first CSI5* in Hong Kong because of Covid-19 in February 2020; then they had to cancel the competitions in Lausanne, New York and Paris. As an expert in crisis management, the EEM group founding President returns with a brand-new event and unbridled ambition, which he discusses in this article.
A year ago, you were talking about the contours of a new world after having to cancel the very first CSI5* because of Covid-19 in Hong Kong, in February 2020. What shape is this new world taking, and have we really entered into it yet?
The EEM group is gradually settling into this world of the future! We must adapt, equip ourselves, and evolve our mindsets. Obviously nothing changes overnight, but the "world after" has started for us, for all the industry stakeholders, and we see that this transformation is also taking place in other sports.
The crisis we went through, from January 2020 at the Masters of Hong Kong with the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, then the cancellation of Lausanne, New York, and Paris was complicated, but we learned some good lessons from it. Yes there was pain, sweat and stress, but today my teams are ready to reinvent ourselves and this is what we are doing with this new event, the Masters of Chantilly.
You also issued a press release a few days ago stating that the Masters of Chantilly would take place whatever the cost, putting forward three possible scenarios. We imagine that this communication had a positive effect on your teams, your partners and all the riders?
I can reconfirm here that the Masters of Chantilly will take place from July 8 to 11, 2021. The sky would have to fall in, to use the Gallic expression, for us to be forced to cancel! We’re obviously moving forward with several different scenarios. Our most sincere wish is to be able to welcome the expected audience, strictly respecting the sanitary measures, thanks to the progress made, in particular regarding vaccines. But we are also progressing with planning an event with reduced capacity, as well as a scenario that runs behind closed doors.
The equestrian events industry has had to face two terrible epidemics: Covid-19 and rhinopneumonitis (EHV-1). Did you receive financial or material assistance from State or Federal institutions?
The only thing that supports us today is the chair that we’re sitting on! As far as the Masters of Chantilly’s financing and smooth running is concerned, we are extraordinarily lucky to have faithful partners who absolutely want our sport to exist, and we are always pro-active in finding new partners. Our official sponsor is Rolex, which strongly supports us in this adventure. The support of Groupama, the Laiterie de Montaigu and our many other partners mean that we can calmly look forward to this first edition.
We also need the entire equestrian community, the entire industry and all the best riders in the world to make this, and all other events crucial to sustaining our sport and its economy, happen.
Rhinopneumonitis + Covid-19: How can we envisage an event going ahead considering all the sanitary restrictions, human and equine alike?
The EEM group has a lot of experience in crisis management and, moreover, in event management. Whether we have to manage quarantines for our event in Los Angeles, or we find ourselves in the center of one of the biggest cities in the world, such as New York, or when we bring show jumping to Hong Kong for the first time, you can imagine that we have all the necessary resources to face these new health issues that have been imposed on us. We’re experts in these areas, and we will do our job at the Masters of Chantilly as we have always done.
We must not just apply the rules decided at the local and national level, but also anticipate all the other scenarios that may arise a few days before the event, during the event, and right after. Everyone must feel safe and secure during our competition.
Regarding rhinopneumonitis, and in association with the vet clinics in Chantilly and Bosdreef, we will go further than the health recommendations from the International Equestrian Federation (FEI). We must go further and provide absolute peace of mind to our community, which has been participating in our events for 15 years.
After starting out in Brussels, it was Paris that finally emerged as the central location for your concept. You’re now arriving in Chantilly. Why this attachment to France, with you being Belgian?
I am, above all, a European! France is Belgium’s neighbor, and it has an extraordinary culture and history concerning equestrian disciplines. The French Equestrian Federation has power that is unique in the world, with several million riders and thousands of equestrian clubs... The horse has a real foundation in France and my history with this country began with the Gucci Masters in 2009. We have invested a lot in France and especially in Paris with show jumping and no less than 11 editions; we have built a real reputation and we have a very nice community there. This link is very important to me and I’d like to continue creating these events for equestrian sport enthusiasts, and we can do this a lot more broadly thanks to this new event, the Masters of Chantilly.
Chantilly takes us into a whole new dimension compared to our previous events. We will be in the center of a green lung, in a lush setting; the Capital of the Horse with its equestrian history that spans several centuries and countless possibilities.
From an indoor exhibition hall across the world, to a unique outdoor event in a historic city on a human scale, in the heart of a forest. Did you need to get back to more natural roots and breathe that fresh air?
The horse is born and lives in pastures, surrounded by grass and forests. The Masters of Chantilly really brings us into this world, as we said earlier! All my teams are delighted to open their lungs to an outdoor event, in this incredible setting. The success of our Masters’ events was built in exhibition halls, where we were able to put on real "shows". From now on, we’re changing dimensions and are ready for new challenges, starting with opening up to new disciplines. I can tell you right now: Chantilly will become the French Aachen.
We have changed course, we’re outside, in the middle of the woods, so the three Olympic disciplines and driving also belong there!
You used to activate event mode every three months to prepare for all the Masters stages across the world; is one event per year enough to stimulate you?
You know, claiming to organize the French Aachen is quite ambitious. It will take us 24 months a year (laughs)! I want the whole of the horse world to be able to reverberate with a big annual event, so you know, if it has to take ten days, then so be it!
Featured photo: Sportfot.com