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HRH Princess Haya of Jordan is Elected President at the 2006 FEI General Assembly, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, MY, May 1, 2006 – Some 95 member nations congregated in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur to attend the 2006 General Assembly of the International Equestrian Federation. A number of others were represented by proxy. This is the highest number of National Federations to ever participate, and 82 out of 138 voted to elect HRH Princess Haya of Jordan to succeed HRH Doña Pilar de Borbón as the new President of the FEI. She’s the 13th president and the third woman to take over the reins, beating out a determined challenge from FEI First Vice President Freddy Serpieri who conceded with 52 votes following the second ballot. HRH Princess Benedikte of Denmark was eliminated somewhat surprisingly after the first ballot having received just 16 votes.

Following 12 years in office, HRH The Infanta Doña Pilar de Borbón decided to step down and new candidates were required to make themselves known to the FEI by last November. As Princess Haya later commented: “There were many people who thought I was too young for the job, but I think I’ve aged five years in the past five months!” As per the FEI Statutes, in order to be elected a Presidential candidate must receive two thirds of the valid votes cast in the first or second (secret) ballot. If a third ballot is necessary the candidate must receive an overall majority (50% plus one) of all valid votes cast.

Each of the three candidates for President of the FEI were invited to make a presentation to the General Assembly by way of a manifesto, highlighting their personal achievements to date, personal strengths and, perhaps most importantly for the voting members, their goals if elected.

Mr. Freddy Serpierie has been Chairman of Geographical Group I and first FEI Vice President since 1997. Greek national champion in jumping at junior and senior level, he won the Balkan Championship in 1973. Greatly involved with sports administration, he was elected President of the first riding club in Greece as well as the Hellenic Equestrian Federation at is foundation in 1990. He remained in this position for 11 years. He chaired the Organizing Committee of the 1994 European Junior Jumping Championship and of CSIO-W Athens for eight years. Mr. Serpieri presided over the International Olympic Academy, the education branch of the International Olympic Committee with its headquarters in Ancient Olympia for four years. He participates in the administration of other sports, such as athletics, yachting and modern pentathlon. From 2000 to 2004 he was second Vice President of the Hellenic Olympic Committee and is still an NOC member.

HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein of Jordan is the daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan and wife of HH General Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashin Al Matoum, Crown Prince of Dubai. She has been riding internationally since the age of 13. In 1992 she won the individual bronze show jumping medal at the seventh Pan Arab Games, and the following year was elected Jordan’s ‘Athlete of the Year’. Following several years of intense training in Germany and Ireland she qualified for and participated in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and also the 2002 World Equestrian Games in Jerez de la Frontera. HRH Princess Haya is member of the IOC Athletes and Culture and Olympic Education Commissions and President and founder of the International Jordanian Athletes Cultural Association. She is the first Arab and first woman to ever become a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations World Food Program.

HRH Princess Benedikte is the younger sister of HM Queen Margarethe II of Denmark. She is the current patron of the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses, which provides a key link between the breeders and international equestrian sport. A knowledgeable breeder herself, she has bred two approved stallions for Dansk Varmblod (Danish Warmblood). Her daughter Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleberg is an international dressage rider and a member of the Danish National Equestrian Team with a horse bred by HRH Princess Benedikte.

The presentation of Freddy Serpieri focused on leading through experience, highlighting his years as Vice President and the first-hand knowledge of the FEI that this carries. He affirmed his commitment to a modernization process and promised to provide a solution to the restrictions imposed on the global movement of horses. During a period of transition he envisioned, Mr. Serpieri commented that his experience and knowledge of the FEI would be invaluable. He said his candidacy was motivated by his love for equestrian sport and proposed that his nomination be endorsed for the forthcoming four years, after which he planned to retire.

HRH Highness Princess Haya began by saying that the motto of her candidacy was that “Strength Comes Through Unity”. She continued by saying that her presentation was the result of a comprehensive study of the FEI compared to other sporting bodies and said that there was no reason why the FEI should not be able to reap the rewards that other federations enjoy. Princess Haya said that she had considered each of the top 10 sports in the world in the past 10 years, where did equestrian sport rank and what had made the other federations so successful. There was no doubt, according to Princess Haya’s conclusions, that equestrian sport lags behind the rest of the world, although she felt that success could be achieved in a relatively short time. But how does sport become a business without destroying the inherent traditions? Taking a strategic rather than a tactical view avoided vagaries and she provided six self-imposed targets based on what she felt were the six pillars that supported the FEI: governance, the National Federations, development, welfare, communications and the IOC. All pillars should be viewed with equal importance and must represent the interests of each and every National Federation.

With regard to FEI governance, Princess Haya felt that the essential centerpiece was the modernization process, and while protecting the future, stagnation was the greatest enemy. She insisted that the National Federations must embrace modernization and the perspective that the FEI staff work from an ivory tower should be obliterated.

National Federations: There should be open and transparent debate on issues that affect us all. The reason for courses of action must be communicated so the thought and dialogue processes would be comprehensible to all the National Federations. She also pledged that she would secure sponsorship for a global IT system that would connect all the National Federations during the coming 12 months.

Stating that development involved equal access while achievement and real action required more funds, Princess Haya again pledged to raise “a great deal of money for this pillar in order to develop the universality” of equestrian sport.

The welfare issue is unique in equestrian sport and Princess Haya reiterated that the FEI required tighter anti-doping rules in order to silence the cynics and increase public endorsement of our sport. “The rules must be tough but fair.” Transportation and the problems of quarantine also need to be addressed.

Communication perhaps requires the greatest change because “sponsors and TV are not queuing up!” Princess Haya once again pledged to raise considerable funds to create a “long-lasting legacy for horse sport” in the wake of success already achieved by Doña Pilar during her presidency.

On the question of the IOC, Princess Haya commented on her deep-rooted involvement with various committees and their ideological goals from which the Olympic movement will grow. She quoted IOC President Jacques Rogge by saying “the horse is the only amateur left in the Olympic Games.” With regard to the existing Olympic disciplines, Princess Haya categorically denied any rumours that eventing would be sacrificed for the sake of any alternative (i.e. the endurance sport so enjoyed at world-class level by her husband). She also stated that the IOC had supported her candidacy unequivocally.

In conclusion she promised that she would raise 10 million Swiss francs by next year’s FEI General Assembly and would have the equestrian disciplines raised from a Category C to a Category B sport by 2012. “I have never promised anything I can’t deliver and plan to lead by personal example.”

HRH Princess Benedikte’s presentation revolved around a four-step program with the goal of achieving greater transparency and accountability. “I believe I can bring a fresh and external perspective to the role. Sometimes in any organization one needs to take a deep breath and to look at a situation with a new pair of eyes. Now is that time.” A rather pregnant pause was followed by an obvious reference to Princess Haya’s youth. “In time of course we will need a new and younger generation to take over. But we cannot run before we can walk.”

Having prior knowledge of the other candidates manifestos, Princess Benedikte pointedly referred to the old (Freddy Serpieri) and the young (Princess Haya) and said she would satisfactorily bridge that gap with more business thinking and focus less on monetary issues. “I have heard a lot about money and less about equestrian sport. I have to say that money alone is not the solution for our sport at this time. Over many years as an international fundraiser I know that nothing comes for free. But, as a responsible President of an international federation I could never allow our sport to be sold-out for promises of money! […] So, where would I like equestrian sport to be in five years time? I would like it to be acknowledged as a sport that is strong, growing and developing under the guidance of not the biggest and richest ­but the smartest international federation. A federation which you and I can feel proud of.”

Despite her extremely articulate presentation and strong arguments for positive change, it was obvious after the first vote that her message did not strike many chords among the FEI federations.

Princess Haya appeared jubilant when Freddy Serpieri conceded following the second ballot and in her acceptance speech said “I promise to do everything in my power and to work tirelessly to serve the institution and the people who have done me the honor of placing their trust and believe in me. Our beautiful, noble sport is seeped in tradition, history and grace, and I will do all I can to protect and advance it, in all its forms.”

In terms of the plan to raise the promised 10 million Swiss francs over the coming 12 months Princess Haya said; “The strategy is to find supporters and sponsors of the FEI, and working very closely with the Commercial Department to make that happen.”

Obviously, a great many people will be watching very closely in the coming months to see how the 32-year-old Princess will respond to the pressures and demands of revitalizing a federation that has had more than its fair share of crises over the past decade.

Around 350 delegates representing the National Federations affiliated to the FEI, riders, event organizers, the International League for the Protection of Horses (ILPH), the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG), the 2006 Asian Games and 2007 Pan American Games, equestrian media and sponsors convened at the Sunway Lagoon Hotel. It is the first time that an FEI convention of this scope was held in South East Asia.

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