European Dog Show: 2019 Wels Austria

From the August 2019 Issue of ShowSight.  Click to subscribe. 


With the World Dog Show in Shanghai-China this year, too far away and complicated to travel with dogs for the European exhibitors that far outnumber the other members of the FCI, it was in the line of expectations that The European Dog Show of this year would be a real success. Austria, one of the first FCI countries, celebrated its 110th anniversary. The Austrian Kennel Club had hosted the European Dog Show already twice in the past, the first time in 1999 and the second time in 2005, and in 2012, the World Dog Show was held in Salzburg with 18,607 entries, plus around 5,000 entries for the club specialties. 13,244 Dogs were entered for this European Show, while another 6,812 were booked for the Austrian Winner. That makes a nice total of 20,066 entries. The organizers, the Österreichischer Kynologenverbandes, were very pleased with this result, it was more than they had expected. The club had chosen for the city of Wels, situated on the rural part of Austria, but not too far from where the mountains start. The city of Wels has good connections via highway and train and the airport of Linz. The Expo Halls offer sufficient space to host all those dogs in with two new halls for the European Show and several old ones where the Austrian Champion show took place. They are situated along the river Traun, at the border of the historical center of the city and facing the park. This was obviously one of the advantages, but on the other hand, so close to a city center means that all the traffic arrives via the smaller city roads. The results were there, traffic obstructions in the morning, and that creates a lot of stress from the start on because people start wondering if they will arrive in time for the show. And as if this was not enough, a continental heat wave struck the city. And it was hot, really hot, with temperatures rising quickly up to over 30°C. That was not what the OKV had wished for. All this together brought certain exhibitors literally to the cooking point when they had to queue at the gates to come in and find shade. This is always one of the weakest points of a show of this size. Usually, last year students of the Veterinary faculty are asked to do the checking of papers and dogs and they often take it too seriously, going too far into details. They are not aware that this creates long rows of upset people, anxious to get in. Parking was no problem, there was enough space available, but getting there meant queuing and as many did not want to queue in the streets, they parked their cars in the city where they found a place and went on foot to the halls. It is always a bad situation to face from the start on. Enough entrances should be available so that this could be prevented. A good first impression makes it easier to forgive small faults during the rest of the day. Of course, there was the coincidence with the heat and this took on for all the three days of the show. On Sunday, a few excited exhibitors forced a door and the security had to push them back. That went along with pushing, screaming and shouting, but security had no other choice as to push them back. Imagine what it would be if they could not lock the door again. Someone filmed this incident and immediately sent it to Facebook. Within minutes it was shared with lots of ugly comments. Again Facebook proved how dangerous it can be if something is posted, without explanation, taken out of its context, giving an impression as if the whole show was one 
big catastrophe.

But was this what the show was like? Certainly not, inside the main and new halls where the European Dog Show took place temperatures were tolerable. The old halls where the Austrian Winner was judged were less comfortable but I heard very few complaints, probably because people understood very well that the temperature was exceptional. There was even a trade stand holder who stressed that it was cooler in the old halls where he was, then in the new ones, notwithstanding the lower ceilings there. It was, however, strange that the new recently build halls were not equipped with air conditioning and the Rotaxhall, where the main ring was situated, in particular! I was told that the cost for it was not in relation to the few days a year that it would be useful.

We have been spoiled lately by lots of space and walkways around the rings, like was the case in Poland and Germany. Here is was more the normal, usual space to walk and sit. A pity that like in Helsinki there were no walkways indicated. Especially when space is not abundant this is very useful and safe in case of an emergency. The trade stands were all over but mostly against the walls. Stand holders still talk about Brussels with its shopping road straight in the middle of the halls so that exhibitors and visitors had to walk through in order to go to the rings. But in general Wels was fairly good, but not a topper. The expo area was boarding the city park where it was nice walking in the shade of the trees. The Traun river, boarding the outside of the halls, was another option for refreshment, but unfortunately, it was also outside the fences of the expo area. Indeed, distances were very short and those we stayed in motorhomes or caravans, were not isolated like on many showgrounds, far from shopping areas, etc. Here, within 500m, you were in the middle of the old town and market square for a cool drink, a dinner in the open or a delicious ice cream.

The Rotaxhall, where the main ring was situated, was opposite the two new halls with a service road in between, and thus, no long distances to walk. In fact, all the halls were within easy reach of each other, very convenient. The main ring itself was covered with grey carpet with, in the middle, a lighter grey stroke, supposed to let the selected dogs run and to prevent that the judges to choose as they liked to let the dogs run, what can cause a chaotic impression? This was much better, and except for one judge, all did as prescribed. It can be as simple as that. The long side, on the left, when facing the podium, was reserved for the VIP’s and judges. The right side was for the Press and the public. The short side facing the podium had several rows with chairs but they were hardly used as were the places on the first floor on top of the VIP area. In fact, I did not have the impression that the show attracted many visitors at least not when in relation to the number of spectators in the main ring. Logical if you keep the extreme temperatures in mind. You had to have a good reason to spend the day in a warm hall while there are plenty of other recreational options to go for, another unwelcome consequence of the heat stroke. However, the national and regional newspapers covered the show very well and usually, that makes a big difference but seemed not to have had enough impact, unfortunately. On the other hand, I had crossed the streets of the city several times but it was only on Monday when I discovered by accident a publicity poster announcing the show. It was not at all an eye catcher, and you had to come very close to read it before you knew what it was about! If there is a small circus coming in my town, you find posters on every corner and you must be blind to not have seen one. But for a big international event, much more exceptional as any circus, you had to find an announcement by accident. A missed chance!

The podium was nice with LED information on the bottom and Live view on a big video wall on top. The entrance to the ring was also built as a video wall, showing the national flag of the judge when he/she was presented. Contrary to Poland there were efficient security people and a ring steward, but the press was not so happy that all the dogs were lined up in front of them, blocking the view of all the remaining dogs to come, but that is a common problem on a lot of shows. In my opinion, the whole scene missed a bit of color and atmosphere. Grey is the best color for photographers. Indeed the color of the light in the main ring was good but not always even when the dogs were entering the ring, and it was all too bright with little or no contrast, creating an overall dull impression. With some light effects one can create a lot of depth and playful contrast, as long as for the photo opportunities the light is bright, even and neutral as the photographers like. That was a problem on the first day when a moving spotlight was casting colors on the winners. However, there was a very good understanding between the Press and the Committee and that was very much 
appreciated. On simple request, it was changed for the following days.

There was very little entertainment in the main ring, only an act of a clown with five dogs, Leonid Beljakov with his Comedy Dog Show. Not bad at all, but every day the same act was for most people and VIP’s a little too much of it, especially as it was the only entertainment of the evening program. But in fact, if that is all that could be remarked, then it is very little and that means that most of it was very good. And since sponsors cut in their budget there was probably little left to spend when it comes to entertainment in the main ring.

More next month! 

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