Husain Al-Musallam, officially installed as President of the International Swimming Federation (FINA) at yesterday’s Congress in Doha in place of the outgoing 85-year-old incumbent, Julio Maglione, had already made his overall direction of travel clear.
Al Musallam’s manifesto had promised more support for National Federations in pandemic conditions, more involvement and remuneration for athletes, greater transparency, an overhaul of the FINA constitution… in fact nothing appeared to be off the table.
But in his first address as President, the 61-year former airline pilot, who is also director general of the Olympic Council of Asia and secretary general of the Kuwait Olympic Committee, offered some clearer - and sharper - edges to his proposals.
Around 189 delegates from 119 National Federations attended the Congress in Doha, while 202 members from 102 National Federations participated in the Congress via a live stream and cast their vote through an online system.
Al-Musallam had some surprises for them.
"In my professional career I was a pilot," he said. "There are few greater responsibilities than captaining an airplane with hundreds of passengers. I am in charge of the welfare and safety of every person onboard.
"You probably won't have heard me talk about this before, as it is deeply personal, but in February 1982 I was the co-pilot of a Kuwait Airways flight that had just landed in Beirut when 12 gunmen came on to the runway by truck, firing randomly into the air, boarding the plane, and taking us all hostage.
"Hijacking is an event for which all air crew are trained and prepared, but of course it is very frightening.
"Nobody was allowed to leave, and the gunmen were intermittently letting off rounds of fire from the plane's entry door.
"I was the most senior member of the flight crew who spoke the native language, so it was my job to help negotiate a solution with the hijackers. So many thoughts enter your head at moments like this, but you also learn so much about yourself. Eventually, after nine hours the hijackers agreed to leave the plane.
"Nobody was injured. I am sure you can imagine my feelings of joy and relief when the final passenger was safely released."
"Now in 2021 it is COVID that is our hijacker, threatening our health and impacting so many of our plans," Al-Musallam continued. "My training as a pilot that guided me through that unpleasant day on the runway in Beirut in 1982 is what will continue to guide me now as I take on the Presidency of FINA.
"As a Captain it's important to stay calm, listen to others and work as a team. This is also how I intend to act as your President."
It was an anecdote guaranteed to ensure that he would have the massed actual and virtual attendees' attention. That established, he proceeded to add detail to his previously announced aspirations.
"COVID-19 is our immediate challenge and we must take swift action to mitigate the damage that it is causing to our finances and day-to-day life," Al-Musallam's manifesto read.
"We need to accept the reality that revenue is currently reduced to a level that is lower than we would have anticipated before the pandemic.
"It is absolutely essential that National Federations should not have to pay the price for the impact of the pandemic on FINA."
Addressing this aspiration in Doha, he announced: "In order to do this, we need to explore all possible ways of increasing revenue and reducing FINA's annual costs. We should be imaginative in our approach to finding new sources of income.
"Friends, I want to take this opportunity to outline to you some of my plans and also to make some significant announcements.
"We need to prioritise our expenditure, and to save money where we can. I want FINA to be able to send more money to our National Federations, to be spent on the development of Aquatic sports.
"Also, we are nothing without our athletes, and I want to commit to spending more on athlete programmes and prize money. In order to do this, we need to reduce expenditure elsewhere.
"FINA is currently spending far too much in administration and at its headquarters.
"I will lead by example, and today I make this promise: I will take no payment, either through salary or other compensation, for any of my work with FINA.
"All those of us who have the privilege of playing a role in FINA's administration need to play our part.
"I plan to reduce per diems for Bureau members by half. In the end we all will be beneficiaries, as we will see the sport that we love continue to grow and flourish.
"Let's all work together to support our athletes and National Federations to be the best that they can. I want our investment to reach every corner of the world."
It is not hard to imagine that resolution being accepted through gritted teeth by numerous interested parties.
But at the heart of Al-Musallam’s new deal is a revivified - or some might say vivified - relation with the athletes themselves.
In 2018 the establishment of the International Swimming League (ISL), backed by Ukrainian energy businessman Konstantin Grigorishin, sent big waves through the sport.
The plan was to start regular meetings involving eight teams of elite swimmers from Europe and the United States, for serious prize money.
The launch was baulked by FINA, which said the venture was "non-approved".
Hungary’s triple Olympic champion Katinka Hosszú was among a group of top swimmers who supported legal action taken by ISL in December 2018, which resulted in FINA acknowledging in January 2019 that athletes were free to compete in events staged by independent organisers.
Shortly afterwards Reuters ran a revealing interview with Hosszú, who told the news agency: "It was very interesting how it unfolded. ISL never wanted to be aggressive with FINA, we don’t want to take FINA’s place, ISL wants to create something new, to be in a parallel universe with FINA and they didn’t allow ISL - they didn’t have the right to do that.
"But at the end of the day, they settled and ISL can start."
Hosszú said FINA had failed to develop the sport in a way that allowed swimmers to maximise their earning potential and branding opportunities.
"Before it was simply FINA decided and that was that," she added.
"FINA was the one that had all the control and we just did what was available to us.
"We want to change the fact that we are only seen worldwide during the Olympics. We don’t only want to be looked at as swimmers without a personality just with a flag on the cap.
"Cap and goggles and where you are from - that is all you get. It can’t be that exciting to watch if you don’t know the person.
"The IOC [International Olympic Committee] probably wouldn’t like me saying this, but [the aim is] becoming such a professional league and generating so much money and viewership that the Olympics will be one of the swim meets, like for basketball and tennis.
"That’s my vision."
Hosszú also told Reuters that she wants swimmer to be "partners of the governing body, not just muppets", and that "ISL takes swimmers seriously, not like FINA."
Another notable fact about the ISL is that athletes previously disqualified for breaking anti-doping rules are banned from taking part. That contrasted strongly with FINA’s stance when it ruled that Chinese swimmer Sun Yang had not committed an anti-doping rule violation in September 2018 during an out-of-competition anti-doping test at his home.
During the visit, Sun and his staff smashed open a container of blood sample vials with a hammer, later claiming they believed the testing personnel did not have proper credentials.
The World Anti-Doping Agency disagreed with FINA’s action and appealed it to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which overturned the decision in February 2020 and banned Sun for eight years for tampering with the doping control process. However, in December last year, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court upheld Sun’s appeal, which had highlighted a CAS panel member's racist tweets, and quashed that verdict.
The case was remanded to the CAS, which held a second hearing at the end of last month, the result of which has not yet been released.
When Grigorishin first met members of the FINA leadership in 2018 to discuss his League and concept and seek official backing, it was reported that he said: "You call yourself the FINA family, so how come you treat your children so badly?”
In July 2019, Grigorishin told Swimming Worldmagazine.com: "Swimmers are treated like experimental laboratory rats, with risks to their health. They have no salary, social guarantees, no welfare, no medical and life insurance, no pension rights, no insurance. Aquatics athletes are at the core of FINA’s activities. They fully deserve all our respect."
On the other side of the argument, it is unclear how ISL can benefit the rank and file of swimmers outside the selected elite.
In his speech at yesterday's Congress, the new FINA President maintained: "To the tiny minority of people in the media who would like to discriminate and argue that somebody from Kuwait should not lead this great International Sport Federation, I simply say this: Under my leadership there will be no discrimination.
He then announced: "I would like to speak to the athletes directly and say this: You are my priority.
"We are already working hard for you, and I am committed to do more.
"I am proud that FINA is the first International Federation to introduce a bylaw that protects athletes' rights.
"I am proud that 16 members of the new FINA Bureau are athletes who have competed in the Olympic Games or World Championships or Continental Championship.
"I am proud that for the first time the FINA Executive has a female vice-president in Zhou Jihong, a great world diving champion for China. And also a second vice-president, Matthew Dunn, who is a three-times Olympian.
"And I am proud that I can make other important announcements to you today.
"I am delighted to confirm that the new FINA Bureau has just approved changes to FINA's bylaws that will give our athletes a much stronger voice.
"Starting at the next year's World Championships in Fukuoka, 20 active athletes will be elected to the Athletes' Committee by the athletes themselves.
"FINA will be the first International Federation to organise democratic elections for active athletes.
"The Athletes' Committee will elect delegates to the FINA Congress and Fina Bureau and will have a say and vote on all important issues.
"Not only do I want to give athletes a louder voice, I also want to reward them better for their achievements in the biggest competitions.
"Athletes make enormous sacrifices to be able to perform at the highest level.
"They do it for the pride of competing for their country and the chance to win a medal. But I believe that it is right that we also give them the opportunity to earn larger financial rewards as well.
"I will deliver more prize money to our athletes and I want a fair distribution of these rewards between all the aquatic sports. There must be no discrimination.
"There will be rewards based on all major competition performances.
"This year I will allocate at least an extra $2.4 million (£1.7 million/€2 million) in athlete prize money.
"I am also determined to do more to support our athletes of the future. I am going to launch an Athletes Education Programme that will run alongside the current Scholarships Programme.
"Athletes from countries that lack the best facilities will be able to study and train abroad. MoUs have already been signed with four universities and I am hoping to add more soon.
"The Athletes Education Programme has the potential to transform the lives of so many athletes who dream of being an Olympic champion but are currently held back by lack of resources. It will help to create a more level playing field. Opportunity for everybody. Without any discrimination."
"So, in summary, FINA is going to give athletes a louder voice, more prize money and more support," the new leader surmised.
"This, my friends, is an historic day for our athletes.
"And there is still much more that I want to achieve."
On the latter front, he underlined his already stated plans to reform FINA's constitution.
"I will instigate reform across the whole of FINA," he said.
"I am going to set up a number of reform committees that will look at every aspect of FINA's work.
"Marketing, communication, governance, anti-doping, gender equity, safeguarding, major events, helping children by strengthening grassroots sports. These will all be included.
"I want to make the best use of all the expertise that is already here in the FINA family. Let's make the most of the experts that we have amongst us, instead of spending money on expensive consultants from outside.
"Many of you have skills and experience which are perhaps not currently being utilised by FINA as efficiently as possible.
"If we work together, we can bring positive changes to every area of FINA's work. Change is rarely easy, but we will have much more chance of success if we work as a team."
Fasten your seatbelts…