Another spectacular year has passed, a year filled with emotions and great sporting moments. Together we have celebrated prestigious victories and created memories; memories which will not only remain written in this annual report but which will be carved in the history of our sport and in our minds.
As we travelled the world from Central America to Europe, passing through Asia, watching athletes of all disciplines battle for medals in breath-taking, top-level Championships and Games, it once again became apparent that our sport continues to expand. 2017 was record breaking, reaching new heights in terms of international events (4,428), registered athletes (42,780) and registered horses (82,609), with France leading the charge, accounting for 12% events annually and 14% of registered athletes and horses.
All our disciplines are growing in size, scope and in new emerging equestrian regions with nations such as China, Estonia, Romania and Tunisia continuing to expand their sporting offering at an impressive pace. This is very exciting for the future of equestrian sport and we are driving this development at all levels, from FEI Solidarity programmes to provide the structure and the foundations required to grow equestrian sport, to the commercial partnerships ensuring that our sport is visible in the media and is being promoted to new and growing audiences around the world.
From a top sport perspective, our milestone events in 2017 did not disappoint, providing exciting competition and the ideal platforms to promote and engage prospective fans and sponsors, including: the FEI World Cup™ Finals in Omaha with 52,119 spectators from all over the globe coming to see who would be the new tenants of both the Jumping and the Dressage titles; 300 competitors from 30 nations and almost 125,000 fans visiting the Ullevi Stadium during the Longines FEI European Championships held in Gothenburg; and, as the year came to a close, our loyal host the Real Club de Polo de Barcelona, welcoming us back to Barcelona for the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final, where we kicked off our new title partnership with Longines with yet another edition of edge of the seat competition as athletes fought for the title and the pride of their nation.
Youth also played an important role, with our future stars proving their skills on numerous occasions such as the European and North American Championships or the Children’s International Classics series to mention a few. Youth events and Championships are critical stepping stones for the next generation of athletes on their path to international careers and I am grateful to all the National Federations for their enthusiasm and vision when it comes to not only hosting these important events, but also for their structured programmes to develop talent and provide the necessary conditions to grow and gain the experience required to successfully reach the senior level. Our sports are extremely competitive and our athletes can have extremely long careers so it is vital we, as a community, provide the support for the up and coming generation.
From an organisational perspective, in 2017 we continued to consolidate our place in the Olympic and Paralympic movement as a sport with integrity and unique values. We are not only respected but leaders in the fields of good governance and gender equality and I take my nomination as an IOC member as well as FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez’s election as President of the Association of Paralympic Sports Organisations in 2017 as key reflections of this.
Our continued efforts in the fields of development via FEI Solidarity and education through our new online platform FEI Campus have further cemented our status as a sport with enterprise and resolve, and we have signed new commercial partnerships as a result of this which you can read all about in the FEI Family Highlights graciously prepared by FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez. Our commercial strategy combined with the growth of the sport, our Olympic/Paralympic status and new successful partnerships have given us financial strength and we are continuing to generate the means to reinvest in the sport and continue developing our disciplines, our processes, our offering and our services to the global equestrian family.
We have a very dynamic community, and I want to take this opportunity to thank all the National Federations, the FEI Bureau and all our Committee Members, the athletes and their support teams, the officials, the organisers, the breeders, owners, and the staff at FEI Headquarters for their dedication and commitment to making our sport the very best it can be. The success we have seen in recent years, with numbers continuing to rise and new regions emerging on the world stage, is very much a reflection of the hard work, dedication and professionalism at all levels of the industry.
Since 2009, we have celebrated individuals from our community at the annual FEI Awards Gala which in 2017 took place in Montevideo (URU) capping off a successful General Assembly week. Very deserving winners were announced and we were delighted to see the huge interest from the public with over 100,000 votes received! It is outstanding to see the tremendous support not just from within our community but of the wider sports industry and fans globally. Several months prior to the FEI Awards in Montevideo, we also celebrated a lifetime of dedication to equestrian sport at the FEI Sports Forum in Lausanne with the presentation of the FEI Lifetime Achievement Award to HH Prince Faissal bin Abdullah Al-Saud (KSA). The IOC President Thomas Bach joined us for this very special occasion where we – the FEI and the greater equestrian community – were also honoured by the IOC with the “Sky is the limit Trophy”.
The sky definitely is the limit and I also want to take this opportunity to thank all the FEI’s partners for their trust and their support and the media for their innovative coverage and promotion of our sport and our heroes.
I hope you enjoy this Annual Report. We have included numerous facts and figures and reference tools for you to review and analyse in line with our commitment to transparent governance so I hope you will make the most of these and look forward to reporting back next year with even more positive developments and results.
Ingmar De Vos
FEI President and IOC Member