Rolex Grand Slam: Questions & Answers with Marcel Hunze – The Dutch Masters Show Organizer

Firstly, how does it feel to have spectators at The Dutch Masters for the first time in two years?

We are thrilled to have the fans back. I think that the riders and sponsors will also be very happy to have them here at The Dutch Masters; the fans of course, I’m sure will be excited to be able to return. Last year, we had to run the show without spectators, and it was a completely different atmosphere. I think the fans influence the riders, especially when they are competing in front their home-crowd. For example, at CHI Geneva, when the Swiss riders are competing it creates an incredible atmosphere and it can lift the performance of the riders, like it did with Martin Fuchs. Let’s hope that it helps the Dutch riders here this weekend!

What are the main lessons you have learnt following two years of disruption to the event? 

As an event we have always had to be flexible – but especially over the last few years we have had to be very adaptative to change. In 2021, there was a lot of change, initially we decided to run the show behind closed doors, then two weeks before the show, we had to suddenly cancel due the spread of Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1), and then find new dates to run the show later on in the year.

Even this year, we had to decide in January whether to run The Dutch Masters. At that time there were restrictions which meant we could only have 1,250 people and all spectators had to be seated. We made the decision to go ahead even with the restrictions, but luckily now those restrictions have been loosened slightly. Now, we can have up to 500 people unseated, but not even one person more otherwise all spectators would have to be tested every 24-hours. We are able to have a small shopping village and the warm-up arena is available to the public. We have had to improvise a lot over the last few years, but that is our job. It is very challenging but also very satisfying when a plan works out in the end.

How have the preparations of putting on an event of this scale changed since the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2019? 

A few things have changed. Our suppliers and sponsors are now more cautious. Luckily, we were able to pay everyone over these last few years, so we are seen as reliable partner. A lot of suppliers and companies have had bad experiences with other events as they could not pay or have gone bankrupt. We have learnt that communication has become far more important. Before you would just sign an agreement and then there would be limited contact afterwards. Now, you need to have more communication to make sure that everyone is happy and knows what is going on.

How big is your team and have any new roles been introduced? 

There is a fixed team of about 10 people, and that number continually grows in the build-up to The Dutch Masters. In ‘normal times’ we would usually have 1,500 people working at the event, this year however, there are about 800 people on the team. There are fewer this year because there is less catering and a smaller shopping village. But our team is very experienced, and we work very well together.

We have been working with our suppliers for a long time and we really like that because they know what we expect from them. We expect high quality and flexibility – our suppliers know if they deliver on this then we will work with them for a long time. We really like working with people for a long time because building up loyalty and trust is very important to ensure that we have a successful show.

What keeps you motivated and your drive high? 

My motivation is to improve the show every year. Now that we are part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, there is even more motivation to continue to innovate and get better. All the Rolex Grand Slam Show Directors meet up and discuss how, not only, we can improve the individual shows but how we can improve the whole Rolex Grand Slam. Being part of this special group is very motivating, and we challenge each other to get better.

How does the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping enhance the status of The Dutch Masters? 

We are so proud to be part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. It was our main goal after we stopped hosting the FEI World Cup™. We have seen so much improvement in the event, including the level of competitors and therefore the level of competition. There is far more international interest and exposure for The Dutch Masters now, with more international visitors and media. There has been so much improvement and we are thrilled to be part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.

Looking ahead to the weekend, what can the spectators expect to see at The Dutch Masters? 

World-class sport – the horse and rider combinations competing here are the best in the world, so spectators can expect a thrilling competition. The Dutch Masters is known for its incredible atmosphere and fun parties, but of course this year due to the restrictions they will be smaller but we will make sure everyone has great time!

Which horse and rider combinations could win the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday?

For the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping concept, it would be great if Martin Fuchs won as he is the Live Contender, and that would make it very exciting. The home-crowd would love it if a Dutch rider would win, I think Harrie Smolders could win or at least be one of the best riders at the show.

Source: Press Release from Rolex Grand Slam

Photo:  © The Dutch Masters / Remco Veurink