Belgium's Ingmar De Vos has today been elected as the President of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) to replace outgoing leader Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein.
De Vos, who had served as the FEI's secretary general since May 2011, won an overwhelming victory in the first round of voting to defeat his three European rivals, Swiss businessman and horse breeder Pierre Genecand, FEI first vice-president John McEwen and French Olympic show jumping champion Pierre Durand.
His 98 votes out of a possible 131 at the FEI General Assembly in Baku see him becoming the first non-royal President of the FEI since 1954.
He will start his four-year term following the conclusion of the General Assembly and also announced he will resign as secretary general today, appointing an interim member of staff, current FEI director of governance and executive affairs Sabrina Zeender, to take over the role until a permanent replacement is found.
"I'm really very honoured and overwhelmed by this enormous support and I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your confidence," De Vos said to the 350 delegates representing 91 National Federations, stakeholders, sponsors and international media present in the Azerbaijani capital.
"Baku will be in my memory forever.
"Elections are always difficult, as it splits a little bit the family, but I guarantee that I will be the President of all of you, I will serve all the members of our community and I will work very hard to keep this unity."
He went on to thank Princess Haya, who had led the FEI for two terms since first being elected in 2006.
"Words cannot explain what she has done for our organisation," De Vos added.
"She has shown leadership, she has guided us through difficult waters, she has innovated us, she has modernised us.
"She has left us with a great legacy and I believe, together with many of you, that it is our responsibility to preserve the legacy and go on with the roadmap she has shown us.
"Words are not enough to thank her.
"Over the years we have become good friends, and I am thankful and grateful for your support.
"Thank you from the bottom of my heart."
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach also sent his congratulations to De Vos.
"Please accept my congratulations on your election as President of the International Equestrian Federation," he said.
"The IOC enjoys a long-standing relationship with FEI, its elected members and administration.
"We are sure that FEI will continue its growth under your leadership.
"Your previous experience in different positions of the equestrian sports will be invaluable for you in this new office.
"On behalf of the IOC and the entire Olympic Movement, I wish you every success in the new role you are undertaking."
A further two equestrian officials had declared their candidacy for the Presidential position but never made it to the election.
Danish Equestrian Federation President and European Equestrian Federation vice-president Ulf Helgstrand dropped out before the vote, while Spaniard Javier Revuelta del Peral abandoned his candidacy last month citing irregularities in the election process and claiming there was a conflict of interest, considering De Vos' position at the FEI as secretary general.
Equally, McEwen had spoken of his concerns surrounding De Vos' candidacy and earlier this month insisted he could offer a "best of both worlds" approach, with himself as President and De Vos remaining as secretary general.
An Independent Advisory Committee, which was set up to preserve the integrity of the process and to avoid any potential conflict of interest, oversaw the Presidential election.
The temporary body, established under Article 36.1 of the FEI Statutes, was composed of Princess Haya, Equestrian Community Integrity Unit chair and former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Stevens of Great Britain, Israeli former FEI Tribunal chair Ken Lalo and FEI Audit and Compliance Unit chair Brian Mangan of Ireland.
Following his election, De Vos proposed a new composition of the Executive Board, with American John Madden as first vice-president, Bahrain's Sheikh Khalid Bin Abdulla Al Khalifa as second vice-president, Luiz Roberto Giugni of Brazil and Frank Kemperman of The Netherlands as members and Maria Gretzer of Sweden as athlete representative.
This was approved by the General Assembly.
Outgoing leader Princess Haya was made FEI Honorary President, while McEwen was re-elected for a third and final four-year term in office as Veterinary Committee chair.
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