By Stu Johnson, Kentucky Public Radio
The 2010 World Equestrian Games move into high gear after a weekend kickoff.
With music by Richard Strauss and a reddening Kentucky sky as a backdrop, Lakota Native American chiefs opened festivities with prayer. They were followed by cavalry riders carrying an American flag. Spectators rose as Ashland’s Wynona Judd sang Kentucky’s state song.
Then, the crowd was introduced to saddlebred, standardbred, and thoroughbred horses as they looped around the ornate arena.
Kentucky’s governor and Lexington’s mayor spent a few minutes at the podium. Mayor Jim Newberry told the audience ‘some of the most magnificent horse farms in the world’ are found in the Bluegrass. Governor Steve Beshear said participants from around the world have a ‘shared admiration for the power, grace, and beauty of the horse.’ He also thanked former governor Ernie Fletcher for working to bring the games to Kentucky.
In addition to unique horse and rider demonstrations which included human dancers, competitors from 58 countries carried their flags in a parade of athletes.
World Equestrian Games C-E-O Jamie Link worked for months preparing for opening day. Near day’s end, he felt good about the opening festivities.
“It really does set the tone, our transportation system worked flawlessly as planned again the weather was fantastic I think everyone has enjoyed the food and the shopping and we had great reigning competition for the first day and now to cap it off with a great opening ceremony we couldn’t have asked for a better opening day,” Link said.
Terez Matthews, originally from Rhine New York, has spent 29 years in Chile. Matthews called the opening ceremonies, the best show she’s seen live.
Accompanying Matthews to the games from Chile was her friend Deena Ereegonni. She spoke and Matthews translated about how the opening ceremonies delivered a strong message of unity.
“She said that just a couple of months ago there was the world cup soccer that brought a lot of countries together all over the world and this also being the world equestrian games brings a lot of countries together and it’s the way of unifying the world through sport.”
So now the focus, for the next two weeks, is on the competition, until another set of ceremonies closes the World Equestrian Games on October tenth.