Princess Haya elected FEI president

May 02, 2006

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KUALA LUMPUR, May 1: Princess Haya of Jordan, daughter of the late King Hussein, was elected president of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) Monday with a promise to haul it “into the 21st century”.

In a right royal battle, the elegant princess - who is married to Dubai Crown Prince Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum - edged aside Denmark's Princess Benedikte and FEI vice-president Freddy Serpieri in a vote in the Malaysian capital.

She takes over from Spain's Infanta Dona Pilar de Borbon, who served 12 years in the post, and will oversee complex preparations for the 2008 Beijing Olympics which will see the equestrian events held in Hong Kong.

Princess Haya acknowledged that the hard-fought leadership campaign - the first in the organisation's 85-year history - had created “fractures” which she urged members to overcome.

”I hope they all come together and realise we have to face the future as one,” she said at a press conference. The future of the organisation - firstly it is to bring it into the 21st century. We have a wonderful sport encompassed in the FEI by many different disciplines,” she said.

A keen athlete with a passion for riding, the princess has represented her country since the age of 13 and took part in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games in show jumping - the first Arab woman to do so.

The 31-year-old president admitted the intense campaigning had been a gruelling experience.

Delegates said the election of Princess Haya would mark a transformation in the FEI president's role, from a mere ambassador for the sport to a real leader with an agenda for change.

Princess Benedikte came a distant third in the first round of voting, producing a two-way contest between Princess Haya and Serpieri.

When a second vote left the Jordanian royal well in the lead but without a two-thirds majority, Serpieri waived his right to a third round in a sporting gesture which drew loud applause.

The FEI assembly of more than 100 national federations was held after the 2006 FEI World Cup Jumping finals, which were staged in Asia for the first time.—Agencies