Cesar Hirsch and the PanAm Games…..building pathways, and leaving a legacy…..

Cesar Hirsch and the PanAm Games…..building pathways, and leaving a legacy…..

by Louise Parkes

PAG

640 pix Cesar Hirsch

Venezuela’s Cesar Hirsch, President of the Pan American Equestrian Confederation and the driving force behind the equestrian events at the Pan American Games 2023 in Quillota, Chile. (FEI/Shannon Brinkman)

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There’s a saying that goes, “if you want something done, then ask a busy man…..”

Caesar Hirsch is the dynamic driving force behind the equestrian events at the Pan American Games 2023. The Venezuelan-born businessman, family-man and passionate horseman is President of the Pan American Equestrian Confederation (PAEC), and making these Games the best they can be means everything to him. 

He’s been involved in every Pan American Games since 1999 in a variety of roles, and he’s using all that experience along with his business acumen, his communication skills, his enormous energy and his powerful personality to make it happen.

After PanAm Dressage drew to a close last week he talked about what he brings to these Games, what they mean to the region, and the legacy they will leave…..in his words….  

Important

After the Olympics, the Pan American Games is one of the most important multi-sport Games in the world. Being an Olympic qualifier in equestrian, the level of sport we are going to have here is amazing and I think we already saw that in Dressage. Having Ecuador winning the individual gold medal and Chile getting the second individual slot for Paris 2024 shows that the sport is developing in the right direction, and Team Chile finished fourth and just over eight points behind the bronze medallists from Canada.

We went through the hybrid system this year to promote the Big Tour (Dressage) because the idea is to keep developing and improving the level. In Jumping we are up there already with the world standard, and in Eventing we have the hybrid 4* Dressage, 3*-L Cross-Country, 4* Jumping system in place. 

In the region we have nine individual athletes already with MERs for the Paris Olympic Games, and now with US already qualified in Dressage and Brazil and Canada joining them the level compared to previous PanAm Games has increased. 

Proud

I feel very proud of Chile and the organising team. PAEC has been very involved from day one, I’ve been here ten times to oversee things and came here 14 days before the horses arrived to be sure we have all the standards in place. The stables are good, the veterinary clinic is set up and fully operational and the airport transportation worked very well. The Chilean authorities are really committed to the Games.

Chile has won 27 Pan American Games medals and two Olympic medals. Here they developed the Master of Equestrianism qualification and they have exchange programmes with different countries in Latin America. There has always been a cross-country course in Quillota, and the army has been the biggest promoter of Eventing. The Director of the Equitation School here at Escuela de Equitación Regimiento Granaderos, Carlos Lobos, competed at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Eventing. 

Organising these Games there needs to be a lot of good communication, and the resources have to be allocated very effectively. It’s more of a “must-have” than “nice-to-have” situation. We were able to do that here even though the cost was significant. 

It’s a very compact venue with super structures. We changed all the footings in the arenas, did underwater irrigation, the stables were completely renovated, the vet clinic was refurbished and we added a recovery and operating room. It was a huge investment and there were times when we had to work 24/7, but it’s all about legacy and providing the best conditions for the athletes and horses to have great sport.

Passion

I was born under a horse, all my family were involved and I have a passion for the sport! 

I competed in Young Riders and jumped internationally and did a bit of Dressage because we had Chilean instructors from this school here in Quillota who were my teachers in Venezuela. In the 80s we moved to the US and I went to school and university there, and when I came back I became more involved with developing the sport. 

I brought international riders to run clinics in Venezuela, the first was Greg Best (USA, double silver medallist in Jumping at the Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea in 1988). I was also involved in the Organising Committee of an international show in the late 80s which turned into a World Cup and World Games qualifier. 

In 1995 I got my first Judges licence, and the following year I did a Stewarding course. My first Games was the 1997 Bolivarian Games in Peru as Chief Steward. Then in 1998 I was Chief Steward for the Central American & Caribbean Games and 1999 was my first PanAms where I was a Foreign member of the Appeals Committee. I’ve been involved in every Pan American Games since then in different roles.

In 2003 in Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) I was overall Chief Steward, and I was Chief Steward in Rio de Janeiro (BRA) in 2007 and again in Guadalajara (MEX) in 2011. In 2015 I was a member of the Ground Jury for Jumping, in 2019 I was Competition Director, and at these Games – my seventh Pan Ams back-to-back – I’m President of PAEC. For the Paris 2024 Olympic Games I will be overall Chief Steward again.

But my title here is I’m everything really. I clean the rest-rooms and I give the medals, so you can call me whatever you want!

Olympic cycle

The Olympic cycle is different depending on our regions here. The Bolivarian Games is for Panama, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. The Central American Games is only for Central America – from Guatemala down to Panama – and those two happen in the same year. The following year you have the Central American and Caribbean Games which involves Mexico, all Central America, Colombia, Venezuela and the Caribbean islands. 

These regional Games are all a big undertaking, but it’s always been a tradition. 

«They are different organisations with different standards of competition but they are stepping stones on the way to the Pan Americans, building a path for them year after year to improve the level of the sport.»

So the Bolivarian Games has certain technical requirements, the Central Americans is a bit higher, then you go to Central American & Caribbean and then Pan Americans.

In the southern region you have the South American Games for countries from Venezuela and Colombia all the way to Argentina and those are qualifiers for the Pan American Games. The Pan Ams is for all the Americas, and from here we go to the Olympics and then we start the cycle all over again. 

This year was a bit more difficult. Because of Covid the Central American and Caribbean Games were postponed by a year so they took place in July and only a few months later we have the PanAms. 

Left

I live in the US and in Paris (FRA). I’m married for 26 years, have four kids and they are my number one priority. I have a couple of business interests in the US including a logistics company with 120 employees and 60 trucks so there’s a lot going on. I have a very good structure – it’s all about team, and you see the result here. 

My experience with the different businesses and having good communication and good leadership, understanding who has the capacity to do what, I think that makes a key difference. In Wellington (Florida, USA) I also own a small chain of stores selling very high-end horse equipment call Equis.

I can’t tell you how many nights I haven’t slept here, when you start early in the morning and horses are coming in at midnight and early in the next morning you just have to get through it. But I made it clear from day one that this is our job, if its 24 hours it’s 24 hours….

I’m all about legacy. Improving the level of the sport is our key goal and we have said this to the community, the National Federations and the athletes, and they are all committed to it. If we can have the next Pan American Games all at Big Tour I’ll feel very proud. Eventing is more difficult because the cross-country 4* is a big step up, but now having already the 4* in the Dressage and Jumping phases we only need to improve the level of the cross-country.

The visibility at these Games is better than ever. Ingmar (de Vos, FEI President) made it a must to have live-streaming of all three disciplines in every competition. Initially the cross-country wasn’t within the scope of the production, but with his support and the FEI production team we were able to have live-streaming on cross-country which is fantastic for the sport and for the region.

Raise the bar

«When you you raise the bar you raise it for everyone.»

You can see how the athletes celebrate when they are competing here no matter how it goes for them. They fly their flags with pride, they have the passion, they stick together and when they get a medal they become rockstars in their home country. It means so much….

The atmosphere here has been so positive and I’m sure we will carry that through to the last day. Having the opportunity to work within the sport wearing so many different hats makes my life so much easier when you are organising. 

I’m a Level 4 Judge and a Level 4 Steward and there are only two of us in the world – Frances Trulzi and me. I use all that experience to do the best I can here and I don’t have any conflict of interest, I don’t make money out of the sport, I don’t have family or horses or anything in the sport. It’s just me – and what you see is what you get!