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Laurens Meynaerts: “The showjumping community should be proud of its resilience”

Tuesday, 18 August 2020
Interview

Photo © Sentower Park “In the end, what we all want, is to organise events where everyone can jump in a safe environment,” Lauren Meynaerts – event director at Sentower Park – says. Photo © Sentower Park.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

Lauren Meynaerts is one of the event directors that has managed to keep CSI events running through July and August, despite challenging circumstances caused by the ever-changing Covid-19 government guidelines and restrictions. 

“We just have to live with the changing regulations – we take it from week to week,” Lauren Meynaerts – who is event director at Sentower Park in Opglabbeek, Belgium – explains to World of Showjumping about his post-lockdown reality. “In the end, what we all want, is to organise events where everyone can jump in a safe environment,” he continues. “We want everyone to stay safe and protect themselves, but we also need to keep the business going.”

“I want to stay positive,” Meynaerts continues, pointing out how looking at each other’s mishaps with a magnifying glass won’t help anyone in navigating the new normal. “I have a feeling that during the pandemic, everyone has been watching each other with a negative mind-set,” he says. “I believe that everyone is trying their best, and mistakes can happen.”

Photo © Sentower Park Getting creative: "We introduced our own "corona-police" – two individuals, dressed up as police, driving around to remind people about the mandatory safety measures," Laurens Meynaerts tells. Photos © Sentower Park.

As an event organiser, Meynaerts has over the last months faced a completely new level of responsibility. “We have constant pressure and stress,” he explains. “We try to make sure everybody can enjoy the sport, but in a safe way – we have to follow the government’s orders. It is really difficult – and that is why I want to congratulate everyone who keeps going.”

Enforcing government restrictions and getting clients to comply has been a challenge that has required creative solutions from Meynaerts and his team. “Over the last two weeks, we had two events running consecutively. At the beginning of the first week, new rules were introduced in Belgium – everyone had to wear a mask and the number of people allowed was limited,” he tells. “We had the stewards, our usual crew and one extra person appointed to make sure everyone wore a mask, and furthermore two security people at the gate to ensure only grooms and riders were allowed to enter the showgrounds. That alone was an investment. The second week with the three-star show – that had 42 nationalities competing – proved to be a bigger challenge. Even though we were really strong the first two days, handing out fines, the message did not seem to get through. As every country has different rules, it is understandable that it can be hard to know which restrictions apply. However, as organisers, it was our responsibility to make sure the rules were followed. Therefore, we introduced our own “corona-police” – two individuals, dressed up as police, driving around to remind people about the mandatory safety measures. They were strong, but funny and it worked very well – they got the message through with a good punchline.”

Photo © Sentower Park "I think we can be proud of each other, because we are doing what a short while ago was unthinkable – we are back competing," Laurens Meynaerts says. Photo © Sentower Park.

While the economic impact surely will be the hardest part to cope with, Meynaerts has found that saying no to his loyal customers has at times felt even worse. “We always try to please everyone, and denying access has been hard,” he tells. “We have so many people who keep returning week after week and they have owners, partners and trainers that they would like to bring with them. It has been difficult to say no.”

When it comes to the Covid-19 reality, Meynaerts believes the FEI could have supported organisers and riders more by simplifying their usual procedures. “Even though I would like to believe that the FEI has done what it can in the current situation, I think there is a political system that blocks rather than supports what it should,” he says – pointing towards the invitation rules and date applications for CSI3*, CSI4* and CSI5* as one example.

Despite the challenges, Meynaerts remains positive. “Compared to many other sports, I think that what the equestrian community is doing at the moment is fantastic! I think we can be proud of each other, because we are doing what a short while ago was unthinkable – we are back competing.” 

 

No reproduction without written permisson, copyright © World of Showjumping

 



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