The 2010 general assembly of the FEI — the international governing body of horse sport — takes place tomorrow in Taipei, the busy capital of Taiwan.
Despite the somewhat obscure location (it’s a 16-hour flight from Europe and not that handy for America, either), I understand there’s a record turnout of national federations this year.
Why is that, I wonder. Can anything top last year’s fiasco over changes to the doping rules (when the FEI tried to railroad through the reintroduction of bute and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, more snappily known as NSAIDs)?
Possibly the presidential election? This is only the second contested election in the FEI’s history, and the first in which the current president, Princess Haya, is fighting for her seat.
And fighting could be the operative word — as it seems there is a groundswell of support for her challengers Henk Rottinghuis from the Netherlands and Sven Holmberg from Sweden.
Elected at the 2006 general assembly in Kuala Lumpur, Princess Haya has, at times, been a controversial figurehead for horse sport. Some hold her responsible for the spectacular fall-out over last year’s NSAIDs row, and question her support for European federations. But Princess Haya has introduced sweeping changes to the FEI — not least with staff, and the gift of a brand-spanking new headquarters in Lausanne.
But Henk and Sven may be forces to be reckoned with.
Earlier this week, the North American Riders Group publicly stated their support for Henk, who promises to “unite the FEI”. And working to the wire, the Dutch former dressage rider was seen in the hotel bar last night canvassing members of the Kazakhstan equestrian federation.
Sven Holmberg is already an FEI vice president and chairman of the FEI jumping committee. At last year’s general assembly he publicly spoke out against Princess Haya on the NSAIDs issue. If elected, Sven promises “to make the democratic processes more effective” and to place horse welfare “at the forefront” of the FEI’s work.
This afternoon there is a “meet the candidates” session, scheduled to last an hour and a half. It should be an eye-opener.