Newly elected FEI President Ingmar De Vos has joined international sports personalities in paying tribute to outgoing president Princess Haya.
At last weekend’s FEI General Assembly Princess Haya stepped down as FEI President after eight years in the role, and was appointed FEI Honorary President with the unanimous approval of the FEI General Assembly.
De Vos said described Princess Haya as “a visionary who has transformed the FEI into a modern, transparent, agile and highly respected sports organisation over the past eight years”.
“Thanks to her energy and commitment, the FEI is a valued member of the Olympic movement,” he said.
“The FEI Solidarity programme, based on the hugely successful Olympic Solidarity model to help the development of equestrian sport globally and, in particular the National Federations with the greatest need, is now fully operational. In the last few years the FEI has signed very valuable long-term commercial partners, including the Swiss watchmaker Longines. The contribution made by Princess Haya to equestrian sport is immeasurable.”
Jacques Rogge, Honorary IOC President, summed up Princess Haya’s commitment to the Olympic Movement in a special video message played during the FEI Awards Gala 2014 presented by Longines last weekend: “Your Royal Highness, may I thank and congratulate you on your great leadership at the head of the FEI. As a President and as an Olympian, you put the safety and welfare of riders and horses first, and have extensively supported emerging countries.
“In close collaboration with the IOC, the equestrian events at the Games have contributed very much to the success of the overall Olympic programme. You creatively broke new ground with the Youth Olympic Games.
“I want to thank you very much for the invaluable support you gave to the IOC, both as an IF President and as an IOC member. You have the elegance and wisdom to leave at the peak of your career. I know that your great passion for sport will not fade away and that you will continue your splendid humanitarian work for the United Nations. I wish you a happy life and success in all your endeavours.”
IOC President Thomas Bach echoed his predecessor’s sentiment in a personal letter to Princess Haya sent on the day she stepped down as FEI President. The IOC President, who presented Princess Haya with the Trophy of the International Olympic Committee during last week’s IOC Session in Monaco, offered Princess Haya his “most sincere gratitude, both personally and on behalf of the IOC for your outstanding contribution to the International Equestrian Federation and to the entire Olympic Movement”.
“You have had an exceptional journey within the international equestrian community both as an athlete and as a leader at the FEI. Your role as an IOC member and on the IOC Athletes’ Commission has enabled athletes to have an important voice within the Olympic Movement and we would like to take the opportunity to thank you for your invaluable contribution and numerous achievements during your term as President of the FEI.”
He went on to express his confidence “that the excellent partnership between our organisations will continue over the next editions of the Olympic Games”, before stating that he hoped “very much that our paths will cross again”.
Princess Haya, who represented her native Jordan in Jumping in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, was elected FEI President in 2006 in the first-ever contested election for the FEI Presidency. She became the 13th and third consecutive female FEI President, and the second female FEI President to have competed as an Olympic equestrian athlete.
The Olympic Movement and the place of equestrian sport in it have always been of central importance to Princess Haya. Active on the IOC Athletes as well as Culture and Olympic Education Commissions since 2005, she was elected as an IOC Member in July 2007. She has since been a member of five further IOC Commissions.
In 2010, Princess Haya was re-elected in a landslide victory in the first contested election involving a serving FEI President.
Just months later, she launched FEI Solidarity, the global sport development programme based on the Olympic Solidarity model, which provides opportunities for the next generation of athletes and those working in equestrian communities, and helps National Federations to build their own national structures for developing equestrian sport. The FEI Solidarity programme has so far supported more thanr 65 projects worldwide with funds as well as technical and consultancy services.
Commercial opportunities gathered pace during Princess Haya’s second term as FEI President.
In December 2012, Longines became the FEI’s first Top Partner following the agreement of a historic, long-term partnership, which also saw the Swiss watchmaker become the Official Timekeeping Partner of the FEI. This followed the relationship already established with fashion designer to Hollywood stars Reem Acra, title sponsor of the FEI World Cup Dressage Western European League and the overall series Final.
Reinvigorating equestrian sport to ensure it continues to appeal to global media and growing mainstream audiences has also been key, and the most palpable illustration of this has been the transformation of the world’s oldest outdoor team Jumping event, the FEI Nations Cup, which was first held in 1909.
The series was given a new, more global format in 2013 thanks to a €16 million four-year sponsorship package from the Saudi Equestrian Fund, and renamed the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping. The series, which enters its third season in 2015, has been a resounding success, with 40 nations expected to take part next year.
Securing increased broadcast coverage of equestrian sport has always been high on Princess Haya’s agenda, and just two weeks ago the FEI agreed an eight-figure broadcast distribution renewal with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and IMG until 2022 that will generate markedly increased coverage of the world’s most prestigious equestrian events.
A further important multi-year broadcast deal was also recently signed with Sky Mexico. The new six-year agreement not only secures the long term on-screen presence of equestrian sport across Mexico and the emerging Central American and Caribbean regions, but also substantially increases coverage of the FEI’s Olympic and non-Olympic disciplines in these territories.
The FEI has developed a strong partnership with the leading broadcaster CNN in order to launch the series of programmes and news features called CNN Equestrian on World Sport.
Future-proofing the FEI as equestrian sport grows rapidly around the world has also been a major focal point for Princess Haya.
The FEI Clean Sport programme, established in 2010 to safeguard the integrity of equestrian and guarantee a level playing field, got its best endorsement at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games where all human and equine samples tested negative. With rigorous testing alongside a comprehensive education programme, FEI Clean Sport will ensure that current and future generations of athletes and their support teams are fully aware of their commitments to protect their own health, the health of horses and fair play in the sport.
Huge efforts by the FEI veterinary team working with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities on the improvement of international movement of sport horses resulted in a major breakthrough this May with the acceptance of the High Health High Performance horse concept.
The creation of the International Horse Sports Confederation, the first formal vehicle for co-operation between the world’s leading governing bodies for equestrian sport, is also designed to ensure that all organisations working within horse sport share best practice.
Princess Haya has focused on building the FEI Family by bringing together the FEI’s 133 National Federations, underlining the importance of strong governance, transparency and integrity.
She introduced the FEI Athlete Representative position for the FEI’s Technical Committees, and this year for the first time in the FEI’s 93-year history the athletes themselves had the opportunity to vote for their Athlete Representatives.
German showjumper Ludger Beerbaum, who has won four Olympic, four world and 11 European medals, and has led the FEI World Individual Jumping Riders Rankings, now known as the Longines Rankings, said in a moving video message addressed to Princess Haya: “On behalf of the riders I would really like to thank you very, very much for what you have done in the past years for our sport and in just two terms. We would have loved to have a third one, and we thank you so much for all you’ve done and all the best for the future.”
In 2012, the first FEI Sports Forum took place, encouraging National Federations and FEI stakeholders from around the world to take part in wide-ranging debates on the progression of equestrian sport. This is now an annual event, with the next edition taking place on April 27 and 28, 2015.
Betty Wates, President of the Equestrian Federation of Jamaica, sent a heartfelt message to Princess Haya. “My wonderful friend,” she wrote “You have done a great job. The Caribbean and developing countries have been able to grow through the FEI Solidarity programme. You have made yourself accessible to all of us and have made the FEI a real family.”
Princess Haya has also donated state-of-the-art headquarters to the FEI in the Olympic Capital Lausanne, Switzerland, home to the International Olympic Committee as well as many international sports organisations. The building, named after her late father HM King Hussein I, has allowed the FEI to expand its team of professionals and improve services to the global equestrian community.
“Following in Princess Haya’s footsteps is an honour but also a great challenge,” newly elected FEI President Ingmar De Vos concluded. “She has shown us the road to success and I am committed to advancing our sport and our organisation with faith in the future, with honesty, integrity, and most importantly in unity. The FEI Family owes Princess Haya an enormous debt of gratitude and I see it as my duty to preserve her legacy.”