They managed it! Who would have dared put their money on the FCI European Section's 2012 Show in Bucharest being such a resounding success? Victim of a smear campaign on the social networks (what power, what strength, often positive but at times also very harmful), the Asociatia Chinologica Romana (AchR) was able to keep a cool head, rising to the challenge and attracting more than 6,000 dogs to the Romanian capital. The AChR was able to leverage the smear campaign against it to promote the show, and the least we can say is that it was very successful in doing so. Congratulations to the whole Romanian team, brilliantly led by Mr C. Stefanescu and Mr P. Muntean.

Unfortunately, three of the canine world’s top personalities have recently left us and the FCI would like to pay tribute to them here...

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Yves De Clercq
FCI Executive Director
World Championship Racing in Mont de Marsan, 1-2 September 2012

World Championship with minor blemishes

Petrol costs, motorway tolls and new rules affect the number of entrants in Mont-de-Marsan.

© Marina Franz

The South of France called – but the number of participants was not very high. Precisely 260 sighthounds from 13 countries had registered for the World Championships in Mont-de-Marsan on 1-2 September, considerably fewer than for similar competitions in 2000 (World Championships) and 2005 (European Championships) at the same venue. However, the final number of competitors actually going to the start was even lower on account of a number of owners not wishing to undergo the stress and strain of the long journey.
The weather was fantastic, though, with the sun shining from a clear blue sky on both days, a brisk northeast wind and temperatures between 22 and 25 degrees. Things had been rather different at the European Championships held in Mont-de-Marsan seven years ago when the mercury climbed to considerably more than 30°C on both days, with the temperature for the final races on Saturday even rising to over 35 degrees.

© Marina Franz

But let’s keep everything in order. When the time came to make plans for the journey to the World Championships in the South of France, a number of World Championship entrants decided to combine the rather costly journey with a holiday on the Atlantic coast, in the Pyrenees or somewhere in a wine-growing area, where they could relax for a few days eating and drinking traditional specialities. The reason for this is that the cost of travelling to France is now pretty steep. The ViaMichelin route planner, for example, gives a distance of 1,432 kilometres for a journey from Kassel in Germany to Mont-de-Marsan by car and caravan, with direct costs of € 271.00, i.e. € 150.00 for fuel and € 121.00 for French motorway tolls. And that is for a single journey, mind you, not including any breaks, food or drinks. In view of what are now horrendous prices and fees, the author of this report also opted for this holiday variation, going on a caravan journey to the south with his wife and friends from the Saarland region on the Wednesday and Thursday before the event. There were two stages planned for the journey there, staying overnight at a camping site in Gien directly by the River Loire.

© Marina Franz
The second stage via Vierzon, Limoges, Perigueux and Bergerac proved to be somewhat more tiring than the first day, although it did include a 200 km section of free motorway. At around 8 o’clock in the evening, however, the strenuous journey was over and we were able to devote ourselves to life on the camp site, which unfortunately provided plots for some vans with caravans which were much too small. Those responsible there were accommodating in this regard, however, telling us that we could occupy three marked-out sites for two caravans and that there would then be enough space. No sooner said than done. The fear of a camp organised on a rugby pitch not being sufficient for the participants as a whole also proved to be unfounded. Even on Saturday, when the sighthound owners had also long since arrived for the start on Sunday, there were still a lot of gaps between the camper vans and caravans.
All the conditions for a successful World Championship event in Mont-de-Marsan would therefore appear to have been met. But alas, there were a number of differences and mistakes that should not really be expected at a World Championship tournament. It all started with veterinary checks on Friday evening, where the entry prizes were handed out and checks were conducted to make sure the stated chip and tattoo numbers were correct. A look was also taken under the tails of the bitches in order to establish if they were on heat. However, the hope that a vet would at least check the health/condition of the animals in the paddock prior to the race was in vain. And this veterinary restraint became the rule for the entire event up to the final.
The second annoyance was even worse for the competitors, however. Although the times of the heats were crucial for the positions in the semi-finals, not one single heat time was announced over the PA system. Only the team captains were given a printout of the data for the individual breeds, with the participants not finding out until after a delay of half an hour or more what times their dogs had run.

© Marina Franz

The running and the atmosphere of these World Championships could best be described as “modest”. At the opening ceremony on Friday evening, there was a parade of the team captains with the flags of the participating countries and a few short speeches, during which the head of the European Sighthound Commission, Martin Haas, thanked those helping locally for their efforts. It was the third time here in the South of France, commented Mr Haas, who added, “I always love coming back here.” However, coming back would be a bit better it there was something to make it more homely on the site, like the members of the local rugby club who created a rustic, French atmosphere back in 2005 with their music and drinks stand.

© Marina Franz

But back to the Championships. For the first time at a World Championship event, there were no “friendly” races. Those were the races between candidates for the World Championship starting lists which had often created considerable delays at previous events. Instead, each country had the possibility to start 12 dogs per breed and gender rather than the previous 6 animals. However, this enlarged quota was only taken full advantage of by the Whippets of the French (twice) and the Belgians (once). The daily programme had been chosen in such a way that the large breeds, e.g. Afghan Hounds, Azawakhs, Borzois, Spanish Greyhounds, Greyhounds and Hungarian Greyhounds, as well as Pharao Hounds and Salukis, would go to the start on Saturday, while Sunday was reserved for the runs involving the Italian Greyhounds and Whippets, with the advantage that the starting boxes did not have to be changed between the individual breeds.

Saturday, 1.9.2012

Sunday, 2.9.2012

Commission President Martin Haas’ summary of this event was somewhat ambivalent: “We can be pleased with the Championships in overall terms even though there were a few problems. Nevertheless, we can also be happy that there were not 400 entries.” Mr Haas also felt it was not right that the heat times and details were not announced promptly via the PA system: “If the heats are decided on the basis of time, the times also have to be made known.” On the other hand, this is not absolutely necessary for the semi-finals, added Haas: “Everyone saw that your dog came second or third.” Moreover, he defended the new rule under which only one timed heat decided who got to the semi-finals and then which dogs qualified for the final. This meant that the animals were introduced to the commotion of the 6-dog fields very early on, which most of them were unaccustomed to. According to Martin Haas, “The dogs have to learn to run in large fields from the outset, otherwise they well never win anything.”
It furthermore struck him that the Hungarian national anthem could not be found for one of the presentation ceremonies on the Saturday, leading to a somewhat embarrassing 5-minue delay until the anthem was then finally played. Haas was otherwise generous with his recognition of the organisers: “The tone and atmosphere was incredibly friendly, also towards the officials. Not a bad word was spoken.” He also emphasised the willingness to make corrections: “It was a pleasant working atmosphere for the team captains; faults that were found were also taken into account.”

© Marina Franz

On the sidelines of the sighthound competitions, discussions were also conducted on how things could proceed in the future with major events like European and World Championships – also after the lack of satisfaction with the European Coursing Championships in Hungary. So, what is the future for the World and European Championships in sighthound sport? This is a question that was frequently asked. Awarding the events only to the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany would not be a solution because the requirement to retain a balanced presence in the member countries must be maintained. The problems are getting bigger, though – with the organisation as experienced in Oirschott (NL) last summer, or with the secretariats as seen this year in Hungary and France. Nonetheless, Haas is quite confident: “There are other clubs and associations that can run such events.” This will then have to be shown next year when the European Championships are held in Versoix by Lake Geneva. And the journey to the championships after that in Tampere (FI), to be held on sand, will not exactly drive entry numbers up, either, given that the travel and ferry costs will be even higher than those for the fuel and motorway tolls to travel to Mont-de-Marsan.

© Marina Franz
As a diversion from all these irksome questions, the author, accompanied by his wife and friends from the Saar area and Switzerland, decided to get away from it all briefly in the Rhône wine-growing region – at the Dolium Restaurant in Beaumes-de-Venise. There we were served poultry roulade filled with foie gras, accompanied by locally grown figs; this was followed by medallions of pork in ginger honey on a bed of spelt; and, for dessert, hot figs on puff pastry with a lemon and saffron sorbet – and all accompanied by a luscious, aged Gigondas wine. The problems concerning sighthound events then suddenly appear to be very small indeed.

Gerhard Franz

© Marina Franz