Election on Sunday to Succeed Princess Haya as FEI Leader

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Princess Haya received International Olympic Trophy from Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee. © 2014 IOC/Ian Jones
Princess Haya received International Olympic Trophy from Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee. © 2014 IOC/Ian Jones

Dec. 9, 2014

The International Equestrian Federation that governs global horse sports including the three Olympic disciplines this weekend will elect a new leader to succeed Princess Haya who gave up almost guaranteed election to a third four-year term to devote herself to working humanitarian issues in the Middle East.

Five candidates–all European white males–are seeking to become president of the FEI that has grown to 132 nations since its founding in 1921.

It will also mark the end of 60 straight years of leadership by a member of a royal family beginning with a string of European royals from 1954 until Princess Haya’s election in 2006.

The candidates generally have split over the policies of the charismatic and relatively young–she is now 40 years old but was 32 when first elected in 2006–Princess Haya of Jordan implemented in her eight years running the organization from the headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

She has significantly broadened both the geographic and membership base as well as pushed hard to win fans outside traditional audiences and forced long overdue changes including governance of dressage.

But she has been dogged by issues of corruption, doping and horse abuse in endurance, a sport in which her husband, the ruler of Dubai is active, questions about the long term financial viability of the FEI and accused of being autocratic.

Even so, on Tuesday in Monaco International Olympic Commitee President Thomas Bach  presented Princess Haya with the Trophy of the International Olympic Committee for “exemplary commitment to sport, its values and the Olympic Movement during her seven years as an IOC Member, her eight years as FEI President and a lifetime in sport.”

The five candidates seeking to be elected at the General Assembly in Baku, Azerbejan next Sunday to take over the FEI are:

Pierre Genecand, 64, a Swiss businessman, banker and insurance broker who was president of the Geneva International Horse Show from 1989 to 2003 and now runs polo clubs.

Ulf Helgstrand, 63, professor of vascular surgery and president of the Danish Equestrian Federation since 2003. He is a former dressage rider and has run a stud since 1991.

John McEwen, 69, of Great Britain is a veterinary surgeo, chairman of the FEI Veterinary Committee and the FEI Prohibited FEI Substances List and Laboratory Groups.

Pierre Durand, 59, of France was Olympic jumping champion at the 1988 Seoul Games and also competed at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and was European champion in 1987. He was French Equestrian Federation president and has been active in the media industry.

Ingmar De Vos, 51, has been FEI Secretary General since May 2011. He has degrees in political science, business administration and international and European law. He was an advisor to the Belgian Senate, Belgian Equestrian Federation Secretary General and initial Secretary General of the European Equestrian Federation.