I have arrived safely in North Carolina and am well settled into the AirBnB house organised over two years ago, and just down the road from the Tryon International Equestrian Centre, the venue of this year’s World Equestrian Games.
Of course my first priority was to check out the venue, but the media accreditation centre isn’t open until tomorrow now, and there wasn’t any entry anywhere else for the likes of rubber-necking journalists from New Zealand! There also wasn’t anywhere to park and take photos, but the place from the outside looks like a huge construction zone, with bulldozers and red soil the dominant part of the landscape. There is certainly lots of activity, so let’s hope it all falls into place; the organisers must certainly have high stress levels!
And just to make it worse, there is a tropical storm threatening, and the latest news seems to be that Florence (the name of the storm) is now intensifying and has regained hurricane strength. Weather sites are warning that a strike on the US East Coast is increasingly likely and as soon as Thursday. While Tryon is considerably inland, and many locals are saying that Florence may not amount to much here, they do acknowledge that there have been storms (ie. Hugo) which have come this far in and caused some damage.
As we drove around the district today, the many, many churches were in full use, so let’s hope those who are praying the storm keeps away have their prayers answered.
The area is different to what I expected. We were warned that there weren’t any major towns close to the TIEC, and that is certainly true. We visited Colombus, a little town about 15 minutes from the venue, and found a great supermarket and an even better cheap and cheerful Mexican restaurant which served tasty fresh food (and margaritas). There are a couple of other well-known takeaway joints.
We also went on a bit of a recce to Tryon township which is very quaint and well worth a visit. Plenty of cute shops, places to eat and drink and even some music at various times. We chatted with some of the retailers, and were told that some didn’t support the Games being in the area. Apparently there is a bit of bad blood when the equestrian centre took the name Tryon, as the town is about half an hour from the centre and thought it inappropriate. There are officials locking horns with the organisers over a variety of things, including permits, so some of the buildings and retail areas are not going to be as originally planned.
However, in the shops we visited, everyone was very hopeful it would all work out, and that there would be lots of visitors to the town as a result of the Games. There are some great shops, and a number of events organised to bring people in. The equestrian theme is certainly prevalent and some tempting goodies on sale. The art was also impressive.
In light of the possible stormy weather coming up, I decided that additional wet weather gear may be needed, so a trip to Walmart resulted. I didn’t see anyone dressed in their pyjamas, nor any banjos, but there were a couple of blokes there who looked like they could be very accomplished players!
The raincoats were found just past the guns and ammunition; whether they will prove any defence against a hurricane, time will tell, but the $5 was probably worth spending on a rain poncho.
So thoughts are with those working every minute left to get things sorted, and let’s hope that the storm does a u-turn and heads back out to sea.
Mark Bellissimo, the CEO / Owner of Tryon International Equestrian Centre has just made a statement on the state of the grooms’ accommodation, which has caused considerable issues. At this point I haven’t heard what the situation is for the grooms for our New Zealand team.
You can read the statement here.