It is my pleasure to say a few words about what has been yet another year of great equestrian sport filled with emotion and memorable moments. A year of highlights! Facts and Figures can be reviewed in this Annual Report.
Youth played an integral role for us throughout the entire year with Championships and the FEI Jumping Youth Nations Cup™ series building up to one of the most important events a young athlete can take part in, namely the Youth Olympic Games. This major event was a unique opportunity for our future generation of athletes to put their skills to the test. Away from the arena, 2018 was also an important year for youth within the FEI governance process, with an entire day of the FEI Sports Forum dedicated to youth. The next generation of athletes representing all the FEI disciplines took to the stage for an interactive session with delegates, providing them with a platform to express themselves and to be heard. We increasingly see the ambition of young athletes trying to forge their career path in the sport, and it is crucial that we provide the support and the necessary pathways to the top level.
Medals and titles were not only awarded to our future generations, but the “crème de la crème” of our sport also celebrated moments of glory at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Tryon, North Carolina, in September. As tradition has it, every four years all our disciplines come together for two weeks of exciting top-level sport crowning World Champions. The size and scope of the Games have become so big that we did have to contend with challenges and let’s not forget there was also a hurricane, but the sport was truly memorable. There were so many iconic sporting moments which you can read all about in the FEI World of Sport. I am grateful to the Organising Committee, all the volunteers, the athletes and their entourage for their team spirit and collective efforts and of course, the staff at HQ.
Sport highlights in 2018 did not end with the Games, as they were closely followed by our prestigious Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final held in Barcelona. This Final was yet another fabulous occasion, especially for Belgium, as they scooped the title ahead of France and Ireland. The FEI Nations Cup™ is the equestrian world’s oldest and most admired team series placing the focus on national pride, camaraderie and teamwork. I am truly honoured that we have partnered with Longines for this important series, celebrating the very best of our sport and equestrian values.
Alongside many fantastic action-packed moments, 2018 was also a Presidential election year. At the FEI General Assembly in Manama (BRN), with the unanimous support of all our member Federations, I was given the privilege to continue leading the FEI forward for another four-year term, for which I am incredibly thankful. Words cannot express how proud I am to be part of such an active and strong community. I would like to once again thank our National Federations, the FEI Board and all our Committee members, athletes as well as their support teams, officials, organisers, breeders, owners and the staff at FEI HQ for their continued support, commitment and dedication.
Manama was also very special for five members of the equestrian community who distinguished themselves throughout the year and were rewarded for their achievements with an FEI Award at the annual Gala evening. Bringing together multiple generations, cultural diversity, different experiences and lifestyles, the 2018 winners were a true reflection of how the passion for equestrian sport unites people from all corners of the world. This unity is something we value deeply.
This year also saw the elections of seven new FEI Athletes’ Committee members. A total of 52 athletes from 26 countries on five continents stood for election, and amongst the elected, we have three Olympians as well as one Paralympian. It was the second time in the history of the FEI that athlete elections have been held and we saw a 100% increase in the number of candidates. The Committee will ensure that the global community of athletes have a say and the possibility to contribute to the positive development of their sport.
The FEI Solidarity programme has also been working tirelessly to assist National Federations to develop the sport from grassroots to the world stage. In 2018 another unique project saw the light of day, the FEI Solidarity Retraining of Racehorses in partnership with Longines. This programme has the aim of retraining former racehorses for other equestrian disciplines once their racing career is over. Longines has been a strong and loyal partner for several years; I am thrilled and thankful that we can explore development related projects together.
This is just a snapshot of what has been an amazing year. Equestrian sport is growing, our fan base is expanding and as a community we continue to set the bar high, by innovating and ensuring our foundations are fit for purpose both on and off the field. Throughout the pages of this Annual Report we have outlined all the key achievements for 2018, with governance related decisions detailed in the Family Highlights section, all the discipline related statistics and key milestones in the FEI World of Sport , the report of the statutory auditor in the Financial section, as well a report on FEI Solidarity activities, the FEI Awards 2018 heroes and a word from our Top Partner Longines.
I hope you will enjoy reviewing the 2018 FEI Annual Report and look forward to 2019 with enthusiasm and ambition!