They are the best riders, the best show jumping horses, in the world – Olympic champions and world champions. They face off in internationally-televised competitions in Paris, in Hong Kong, and for the first time, in Long Beach.
The Longines Masters Series, billed as the Grand Slam Indoor of Show Jumping, is set to take place September 29-October 2 at the Long Beach Convention Center. Long Beach landed the event after its first two editions took place in Downtown Los Angeles, and the city is set to host the next several editions of the three-day equestrian event.
EEM Founder and CEO Christophe Ameeuw, right, is pictured with Matthieu Gheysen, director for the Longines Masters Series event to be held at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center September 29 to October 2, and Anouk Blain-Mailhot, EEM’s marketing and communications director. EEM is headquartered in Belgium. Long Beach is the first of three legs of the Grand Slam Indoor of Show Jumping, which also has competitions in Hong Kong and Paris. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Larry Duncan)
The series is the creation of Christophe Ameeuw, founder and CEO of EEM, which is the creator and operator of the Longines Masters series. Ameeuw has been an equestrian enthusiast since childhood, and today he is the owner of the horse training, trading and breeding facility Ecuries d’Ecaussinnes in Belgium.
The series is the embodiment of Ameeuw’s passion for the sport and his desire to revive it as a high-level worldwide sporting event – and as a platform for high-level networking and B2B opportunities.
“Show jumping, with the best in the sport,” Ameeuw says. “This will be very unique, a chance to showcase this amazing sport. It will be fashionable, very glamorous. It is a show with the best riders, the best horses. But it is not only this.”
Friday will feature the speed challenge, a timed competition with 16 jumps in which riders are penalized for failing to cleanly navigate the jump. Saturday is a charity event with amateur and professional riders teaming up for performances. And the Grand Prix jumping event is slated for Sunday.
More than 250 horses and 120 riders are expected to compete and participate, says Matthieu Gheysen, Los Angeles event director for EEM. And there are ancillary events focusing on art, fine dining and entertainment that provide additional attractions during the weekend-long festivities and competitions.
“A key component of the event is that, besides the sport, there are all the different aspects – the art, the entertainment, the kids’ events,” Gheysen says. “It offers a very unique experience to everybody – everybody in the community and everybody coming from elsewhere for the event. It is a meeting point for everyone traveling internationally, everyone traveling nationally, but we want to make sure that the Long Beach community is part of the event. Everybody has something to enjoy.”
Putting on the event is a horse-sized task of its own. To transport the real stars of the show – the horses – from Europe, EEM leases a Boeing 777 set up as, in effect, a flying stable carrying 52 horses in comfort and safety. “They travel business class, because they are very precious,” Ameeuw says.
But the publicity also is significant. The event is broadcast in 100 countries around the world and reaches an audience of approximately 500 million households in Europe, the Middle East, South America and Asia, says Anouk Blain-Mailhot, marketing and communications director for EEM. That is a massive amount of exposure to a high-end clientele for the city.
“We are talking about the best horses and the best riders in the world. It is really the top, top end of the show jumping world. You have the champions here – that is the level we are talking about,” she says. “The broadcast is very important for us. Since the beginning of this concept, broadcast always has been a big priority.”
And as Ameeuw points out, staging three events over three continents ensures continued publicity for Long Beach over several months, not only as the event is taking place.
Equally significant are the B2B opportunities for the local business community, Blain-Mailhot says.
“I think it is important that people in Long Beach, the different businesses, the community, know that this can be a great platform, a great experience. It’s a great platform for entertaining, for networking,” she says.
“You have people from all over the world coming here, a lot of decision-makers, a lot of very influential people. We invite the people of Long Beach to use the event as a networking opportunity.”
Long Beach provides exactly the backdrop that EEM was looking for when it came to the Los Angeles event, Ameeuw says.
“We come to Long Beach because the venue is amazing. We come here because we receive the red carpet. We are very happy and very proud to come to Long Beach because it is very international – and it is very California!” Ameeuw says.
“We have the palm trees, we have the beach, we have the harbor – we are in California. It is, for me, like a postcard. I think we will be a very good ambassador for Long Beach. Here in Long Beach, this is only the beginning of the story. It will get better and better.”