The Swiss-based FEI, which was founded in 1921 and has in the past been led by both HRH Prince Philip and HRH Anne, Princess Royal, is today headed by its President Ingmar De Vos of Belgium, who this week was officially re-elected for a new four-year term in the role. He is accompanied at the top of the organisation by FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez, who presides over many of the assembly sessions. Indeed, she noted that 116 national federations have been in attendance either directly or indirectly from November 16–20 in Bahrain, a country whose name means “two seas”.
In his acceptance speech following his re-election, De Vos highlighted some of the major issues the FEI is currently dealing with, including testing its new competition formats ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, implementing a new commercial strategy and looking for new partners, adopting new technologies, graphics and applications for equestrian sports fans, and finding a solution for the problem-plagued long-distance discipline of Endurance, “with a clear emphasis on Endurance riding not Endurance racing.”
On that issue, the General Assembly discussed the circumstances which led to a false start and subsequent cancellation of the Endurance competition at September’s Tryon FEI World Equestrian Games in North Carolina, in the United States. A report by the Equestrian Community Integrity Unit concluded that, “there was no single reason that caused the false start but multiple issues: most importantly lack of communication between Officials – particularly the lack of radios – and also between the Organising Committee, National Federations and Athletes, delays to the preparation of the Vet Gate and the Endurance trail, and the decision to maintain a full schedule of events…. which stretched an already under-resourced team required to deliver both these events and the Games.” The same body is also looking into allegations of misconduct, with a report expected later.
The Secretary General also discussed some of the problems which impacted the overall delivery of the latest Games – including construction and communication issues – but added that, “to be completely honest we, as a community, were fortunate that Tryon were courageous and willing to take on the enormous challenge to host the Games only 22 months prior to the event. Without them we would have had no WEG 2018.” Looking ahead, with no current host for the 2022 Games, the FEI is open to the possibility of a return to individual championships for the different disciplines, although preference will be given to multi-discipline bids. “This does not necessarily mean the end of the FEI World Equestrian Games and bids to host all-discipline Games will still be considered,” Ibáñez explained.
Elsewhere on the agenda, retiring Veterinary Committee Chair Dr. John McEwen of Great Britain oversaw the confirmation of changes to regulations and touched on issues like international horse transport before being named an honourary vice-president of the federation. Other topics touched on ranged from concussions and helmet protocol to transparency and governance within the organisation.
To watch how some of the General Assembly sessions unfolded live, see here. The next major international meeting for the FEI will be its 2019 FEI Sports Forum in Lausanne, Switzerland, which lays the groundwork for decisions taken at the Assembly. And still to come this evening in Bahrain are the 2018 FEI Awards presented by Longines. They include the Longines RIsing Star, Fosun Best Athlete, Best Groom, Against All Odds, and FEI Solidarity awards.
The next FEI General Assembly will take place in Moscow in November 2019, and the 2020 FEI General Assembly will take place in Johannesburg, South Africa.