FEI Confirms Delays in Brazil’s Approvals of Transport of Horses for 2016 Olympic Games

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The United States 2007 Pan American Games gold medal dressage team at Deodoro near Rio de Janeiro. © 2007 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
The United States 2007 Pan American Games gold medal dressage team at Deodoro near Rio de Janeiro. © 2007 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Lengthy delays by Brazil’s Ministry of Agriculture to approve transport of horses in and out of the country for next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro were confirmed by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) Friday that said it “has an important impact” on planning and preparation.

The FEI, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, said it has “been working for some time” to get necessary approvals but were “still not finalized.”

Delays in Brazil government approvals were first disclosed by Luiz Roberto Giugni, president of the Brazilian Equestrian Confederation.

The Associated Press reported from Rio that he had warned that equestrian competition at next year’s Games may have to be be moved outside Brazil if government approvals were not issued by the end of October for import and export of about 200 horses mostly from North America and Europe.

“We have been working for some time with Rio2016, the Brazilian and Rio authorities and the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture to get the Veterinary Certificate and Protocol approved that will define the conditions for importation and exportation of the horses that will compete at the Rio Olympic Games,” FEI President Ingmar De Vos said in response to questions from dressage-news.com.

“The process of approval of the equine health certificate by the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture has already taken a lot of time and is still not finalized. This has an important impact as it delays the planning and preparation of the horses that will take part in the Games.

“As the President of the Brazilian Equestrian National Federation, Luiz Robert Giugni has supported us very actively during these negotiations and we appreciate that in his efforts to help the equestrian community in the discussions with his compatriots he is applying all possible pressure to achieve this.

“We have had further discussions earlier this week and I expect the Ministry of Agriculture to issue this certificate very soon so that we can carry on with preparations for the Olympic Games and that the biosecurity protocols will ensure the safe import and export of the Olympic horses.

“Therefore we are confident that our horses will be allowed to travel back and forth to Rio to participate in 2016 Olympic Games together with all the other Olympic sports. We are looking forward to very successful Olympic equestrian events in Deodoro next year.”

Similar issues arose in preparations for the 2007 Pan American Games at the same Deodoro equestrian complex that was inside the largest military base in South America and about an hour outside Rio.

Regulations for bringing horses to and from Brazil are strict. The American news agency said the country is still subject to diseases affecting horses, including glanders, a lethal bacterial infection recently diagnosed in several horses in Brazil.

Of the 200 horses–60 for dressage, 75 for jumping and 65 for eventing plus traveling reserves–all but 12 allocated to host Brazil for a team in each discipline, come from outside Brazil,

Most are from Europe and North America. Many South Americans qualifying for the Olympics are based in the United States and Western Europe.

Similar horse import and export problems were encountered during the Pan American Games in Rio at the same venue in 2007, worsened by heavy-handed restrictions on riders and grooms, spectators and media enforced by large numbers of armed soldiers.

The Rio Olympics have been plagued with serious construction delays at numerous sports venues and hotels, including at the Deodoro complex.

The equestrian test event over the summer was generally given a passing grade by observers from foreign federations. Since then, the country’s economy has sharply declined and the threatened impeachment of the president has created political instability.

Equestrian events have often not been near the center of Olympic activity.

The 2008 equestrian events were held in Hong Kong about 1,200 miles (1,900km) from Beijing because of horse health issues though the organization was credited with staging one of the best-run horse competitions.

The 2012 Games were at Greenwich within the London metropolitan area and highly lauded as being integral to most other Olympic events.