As all of us begin to emerge from our splendid and wonderful exhaustion, and as the dust begins to settle . . . literally . . . I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to share some reflections upon what I think we would all agree was a most remarkable sixteen days.
Despite years of challenges, difficulties, tensions, angst of every sort, and long endured struggles, all of which were largely unseen by the world, history will record that the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games of 2010, conceived by, and held at, the Kentucky Horse Park, was a triumphant success!
Throughout the many years of thinking about these Games, I simply did not dare to dream that this event would go so well and result in the nearly universal euphoria that we now seem to share. As a result, I am filled with, not only great humility, but with profound gratitude, to be associated with such a rare and remarkable group of people that made these Games so extraordinarily successful.
In addition to the world's best equestrian athletes, both human and equine, there are many winners in these World Games. These winners include the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the Kentucky Horse Park, Kentucky's horse industry and, most assuredly, the city of Lexington.
Not surprisingly, I would like to begin with the Kentucky Horse Park. One of the most satisfying occurrences during this entire effort was that so many people, from so many different places in the world, were able to witness first-hand the remarkable competence, intelligence, cleverness, and tireless dedication of the staff of the Kentucky Horse Park. The praise for this group of people continues to be heard from all corners. This exceptional collection of people included not only the staff of the Horse Park, but also the staff of our Foundation and our wonderful army of volunteers. I am not surprised, but am glad they are being recognized for their excellence. I can tell all of you that I consider it THE great privilege of my professional life to be associated with every single one of my Horse Park colleagues. All of us owe them our deepest gratitude.
In thinking of our Horse Park, it is important that we remember that the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games did not CAUSE the success of the Kentucky Horse Park. The World Games are, instead, a REFLECTION of the success of the Kentucky Horse Park. Our ascendancy has been in effect for some years now. As a result of the urgency created by the Games, we now have the tools to allow our Horse Park to truly fulfill its destiny.
As has been said on many occasions, the new facilities and all the upgrades to the park were needed whether or not we ever heard of the World Equestrian Games. And, as we predicted, these new facilities have been extensively booked by new events and many of our long standing events are growing dramatically. It is with this in mind, that we can state confidently that there will be world class equine competition at our Horse Park for decades and generations to come.
As we look forward to what promises to be an exhilarating future, it is important that we not forget the special people who got us to where we are today. It was gratifying that for sixteen days, tens of thousands of people traversed upon Nina Bonnie Boulevard. One can mark the moment in history when the Kentucky Horse Park began its rise to preeminence to the day Governor Collins appointed Nina Bonnie to head the Commission and to start the Foundation. I will always be grateful to her and the Commission for hiring my mentor, Lee Cholak, whose leadership set the stage for so much of what we have achieved. I will also always be grateful to Lee and Nina for hiring me and giving me the opportunity of a lifetime.
It was also during these important years that people like Alston Kerr and Cabby Boone began to take leadership roles in the park's development. The great leadership that Alston and Cabby give to the park today can be traced to the leadership of not only Nina Bonnie, but to the many people who gave so much of themselves to the park before anyone could be assured of its ultimate success.
In key points of its history, the Kentucky Horse Park has been blessed to be supported and protected by special friends. There is no greater example of this than our Governor and First Lady.
All of us know the long devotion that Steve and Jane Beshear have given to the Kentucky Horse Park. There is something nearly Providential that when the park entered the most critical time in its history - placing itself upon the world stage - the Governor's Mansion was occupied by two of its most faithful supporters. Much of the world will never know the critical role both of them played as the Games faced every sort of peril and challenge. The fact that the Games prevailed in the manner that they did is indicative and reflective of their leadership.
It is also characteristically thoughtful of Steve and Jane that they made sure that Governor Ernie Fletcher and Glenna were deservedly recognized for the essential role they played in securing these Games for Kentucky. Lesser people would have not been so magnanimous and somehow that generous gesture seemed, not only to reflect their wonderful character, but also to embody the entire spirit of the Games.
Clearly it is not possible to discuss the success of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games without expressing our enduring gratitude to Pearse and Dierdre Lyons. Alltech has provided an event sponsorship that is truly unprecedented and assured the success of the Games. As a native Kentuckian, I find it as a real source of pride that the first named sponsor of a World Equestrian Games was not one of the usual band of international companies, but is instead, a Kentucky based company, that is international in scope, based in our agricultural heritage, but on the cutting edge of biotechnology. I am very proud that Dr. Lyons (both Pearse and Mark) represent twenty-first century Kentucky to the world.
As we know, over the years the formula for success of the Kentucky Horse Park has involved public/private partnership. We have definitely taken that concept to an entirely new level with the naming rights agreements that have resulted in the Alltech Arena and the Rolex Stadium. It is fitting that these mutually beneficial business agreements involve these particular partners. The new arena carries the name of the company that made possible the park's most historic event. The new stadium carries the name of company that has a thirty year relationship with the park and has been responsible for the park's international reputation which allowed us to be taken seriously as we undertook to bid on the Games.
The Games provided the occasion to celebrate and strengthen some of the park's most important relationships. The park staff became true partners with the World Games Foundation staff which was charged with the actual execution of the Games. We also solidified our close relationship with the United States Equestrian Federation. The park renewed its many close associations with countless breed and discipline organizations that were present during the World Games and who have had and will have many of their events at the park.
The Kentucky Horse Park has no prouder association than its membership among the agencies of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, so ably lead by Secretary Marcheta Sparrow. The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games provided the forum for the Kentucky Experience, one of the most significant tourism endeavors in the history of the Commonwealth. All Kentuckians were proud of how this pavilion presented Kentucky to world and I was very proud that such a magnificent presentation was upon the grounds of the Horse Park.
Kentucky was indeed a huge winner as a result of the Games. The worldwide positive exposure was unprecedented and we have defined ourselves to much of the world as a beautiful place inhabited by warm, friendly people in an environment that is worthy of relocation and business investment.
The same can be said of Lexington. Downtown Lexington has experienced nothing less than a renaissance as a result of Spotlight Lexington, which would not have happened were it not for the Games. The city has experienced a surge in pride, energy and confidence. The Herald-Leader's Tom Eblen noted that he lived in both Knoxville during the time of the World's Fair and in Atlanta during the Olympics. He stated forthrightly that Lexington did better with these Games than either Knoxville or Atlanta. The level of discussion about how to keep alive the spirit of the Games within the community is simply inspiring.
The Kentucky horse industry has been changed for the better as well. The growth of the sport horse sector of the industry has given a new and deeper meaning to "Horse Capitol of the World." This growth is directly related to the success of the Kentucky Horse Park and has been occurring for several years now. The World Games is reflective of the remarkable growth of the Kentucky Horse Park and, consequently, the growth of the sport horse sector of the industry.
There is no longer any question but that our Kentucky Horse Park has made the most significant contribution in memory to the advancement of equestrian sport on this continent. There can be no question but that our Horse Park has made an historic contribution to the international profile of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. No one can dispute but that the park has been an essential element in the renaissance that is occurring within Lexington and the Bluegrass. It is now clearly evident that the Kentucky Horse Park is at the vanguard of the movement that will make the twenty-first century the "Golden Age of the Horse" in America. Without doubt, the best, most exciting, and exhilarating days for the Kentucky Horse Park lie in the future and the great spirit of the 2010 World Games will continue at the park for decades and generations to come.