As is well known, sports organizers in Saudi Arabia do not lack money. It is therefore hardly surprising that the funding for the show jumping World Cup final was quickly doubled. At the premiere in Riyadh this week there will be 2.6 instead of 1.3 million euros in prize money like a year ago in the USA. “If there is more prize money, that is of course good for the riders,” said national coach Otto Becker.

Otherwise, the otherwise eloquent Becker doesn’t want to talk too much about the special features of the unofficial World Indoor Championships in Saudi Arabia, about human rights or about sportwashing. “We are going there to ride and do well,” said the national coach about the trip to the authoritarian kingdom, which has been heavily criticized because of the human rights situation there. Becker emphasized: “We stay out of politics. The decision to hold the final there was made by others.”

Is Riyadh using equestrian sports for sportwashing?

The world association FEI has awarded the World Cup finals for jumping and dressage together to Asia for the first time and is now pleased about the “groundbreaking increase in prize money,” as it said in a statement. This makes the final tournament an “extraordinary and unprecedented event”. The dressage prize money was increased significantly more modestly by almost 30 percent to 400,000 euros.

The budget for the first equestrian event at the Riyadh International Convention will be around 30 million euros

On the other hand, riding and horse breeding have a long tradition in the country. In the Olympic disciplines, this at least applies to jumping. There have also been Olympic medals: 2000 bronze for Khalid al-Aid in Sydney and 2012 bronze for the team at the London Games. The Saudi team has qualified for Paris with the German David Will as coach.

Theodorescu: “The points of criticism are well known”

International show jumping at the highest level has been taking place for years. For the final premiere in the huge trade fair complex in Riyadh, the hosts bought German know-how. “We are responsible for the sporting area,” explained Volker Wulff, who has already organized World Cup finals in Leipzig and Malaysia with his agency Engarde. “They want to learn so they can do it themselves in a few years.” Last year there was a test event, but without dressage. There is no other dressage tournament in Saudi Arabia this year.

The German delegation with three couples led by record rider Isabell Werth is not deterred by this. As far as the political situation is concerned, national dressage trainer Monica Theodorescu sees the positive sides. “The criticisms are well known,” she said. “But it’s good if they open up and show a sport in which men and women compete against and with each other on equal terms.”

Werth, who is riding with Quantaz differently than planned due to Emilo’s injury, praised the conditions before the first ride on Wednesday. “The conditions there are great,” wrote the world’s most successful rider on Instagram.