Today’s post comes with a soundtrack suggestion. Remember that song by The Boss, ‘I’m Going Down’? Well that is what I hummed as I descended down, down, down from the apartment I rented (much cheaper than a hotel, no need to dress for breakfast) to the lakeside convention centre.
The apartment has wonderful views of Lake Geneva and the mountains. See?
But of course it has that view for the reason that it soars far above lakeside, which is where the FEI GA is taking place. It’s a wonderfully quick five minute downhill jaunt, and an equally un-jaunty return back up. My post yesterday was called ‘Enduring the Endurance’, but my endurance wasn’t truly tested until I left the convention center last night to climb back up that heinous hill. All my flexors AND all my extensors are screaming today from what amounted to a descent and an ascent of a black diamond run, without skis. I know it sounds like an exaggeration to whine about ‘a little hill’, so this morning on my way down I took a few pictures to prove my point.
Here is the starting point outside my charming apartment building:
I begin my descent,
And continue to descend,
And descend (if it doesn’t look that steep, note the STAIRS on the right side).
Still going down,
Ah, there we go. Rock bottom.
I kid. I would not describe the FEI GA as ‘rock bottom’. In fact, I thought the convention center was going to levitate in a state of ecstasy this afternoon when Ingmar de Vos announced that he held in his hand a petition signed by no fewer than 100 of the FEI’s 132 member federations to extend the Prez’s term for another four years. Actually, that’s 131 members now, since this morning the GA voted in favor of suspending Cuba for not paying its dues AND being incomunicado (there was one objection in that vote: Poland. I wouldn’t think that Poland has deep communist sympathies these days, but left wing or right. You gotta pay your dues, dude. Poland’s support of Cuba made me want to immediately make up a Polish joke about it).
So yes, it’s true. The petition was signed with almost four times the number of required members to call an extraordinary General Assembly. At the end of the 2014 FEI Sport Forum on April 29, an extraordinary GA will convene so that the membership can vote on whether to give HRH the chance to stand for a third term. HRH did the appropriate thing this afternoon and immediately excused herself from the auditorium while the topic was discussed.
I’ve never been to a Baptist revival, but I imagine it might feel a bit like the GA did this afternoon. While HRH was in a state of recusion (that’s not a word but it should be – I’m using it anyway), several emotionally available delegates grabbed the mike to cry Hallelujah. Here are a few of the more memorable verbal ejaculations:
Jamaica – apparently the Jamaican Mini Me Malcolm was not in the house, but another member of the Jamaican federation took the opportunity to say “we totally love Princess Haya” and to distance the federation from their newly appointed and probably-soon-to-be-removed President, whose outrageous behavior I mentioned in yesterday’s post.
Chinese Taipei – I didn’t catch his name but his accent sounded like he has spent the better part of his life in the US. In addition to serving his FEI member’s heart on a platter to the then-absent Prez, here is what he also said that shocked the hell out of me: “We don’t need the media to dictate the direction of our sport.” Say what? His message, once I got past the hyperbole, was firstly that he is possibly the most excited sentient being in the entire universe about the prospect of a third term for HRH; secondly, it’s the evil media sowing the seeds of malice that nearly caused the third term not to happen. Oh sure. We so POWERFUL (pounding of media chests). But Taipei wasn’t the delegate who most shocked me with ascribing an extraordinary amount of influence to the media. That prize goes to John Long.
USA – John Long, who I’m pretty sure I have read is resigning his post as CEO of USEF in the coming months, said something that utterly baffled me. What I found at least equally baffling is that the FEI quoted him in today’s press release. I didn’t copy his words down quite the same as the FEI, so I’ll share with you what I heard come out of his mouth: “Based on the media, we came here thinking we should be asking for her resignation, and here we are asking her to stay another term.”
Dear John Long: Karen Robinson here, certified muck raker of the first degree. Are you saying that you take your cues on decision-making in your role as a representative of the USA within the FEI from what you read in the press? I welcome a reply either in an email or (preferably) in a comment at the bottom of this post.
Seriously though. You folks and all your ‘media this’ and ‘media that’ are at risk of making our heads swell. Surely we aren’t THAT influential.
We the media were treated to no small amount of attention this week, including a downright threatening speech from LORD Stevens that left me wondering if today I’d be going down, down, down to true rock bottom – that is, the depths of Lake Geneva, with a specimen of the aforementioned aid-to-sinking-kittens tied around my ankle. LORD Stevens warned that there are consequences when the press make libelous, unsubstantiated claims (he didn’t quite say ‘sue’ but you’d have to be in a coma not to have made the very small jump to that conclusion). LORD Stevens clearly believes that there are those of us who question his ‘independence’ and that we have no business doing so. I prefer to call it impartiality. I guess the natural next step for me is to take a deep breath, grab my cojones, and request an interview with LORD Stevens. If there was one message I took away from what was a borderline frightening moment in my journalistic life during LORD Stevens’ speech, it was that I really should just ask the question of a person when I am not sure of the appropriateness of his or her decisions.
But back to the petition, which as I said already, was signed by 100 federations. That’s an interesting number, because this morning Ingmar told us there were 99 nations present, either in person (77) or by proxy (22). I also know for a fact that the following powerhouse federations did not sign the petition: Switzerland, France, Germany, Great Britain and the Netherlands. The most likely explanation is that the petition started up before the GA in order to have secured the number of signatures it got.
There is so, so very much to say about other topics of today, but really the third term petition, for now at least, eclipses everything else. As you might imagine, the press conference with HRH and Ingmar at the end of the day was mostly about that topic, though it did share some space with questions about the FEI’s problem child, Endurance. I was completely taken aback right off the bat when HRH personally apologized to me for the last minute revoking of media access to the Olympic meeting on Tuesday.
Now, the reason I was taken aback wasn’t that HRH apologized – it’s not the first time she has disarmed people at press conferences with simple frankness. No, what left me without the use of my arms was that she knew my name. Sounds silly, but I thought I’d be frank now too. I’m not a monarchist of any color, and my northern Canadian upbringing leaves me entirely without the tools of etiquette for brushes with royalty. But I’d be lying to say that HRH’s title and heritage, in comparison to mine, are all that affected me. No, it’s much more personal than that. Love her or hate her, everyone who knows her has to admit she has immense charisma – I mean that only in a good way. And heck; to put this in the Canadian redneck-speak that reflects my own cultural heritage: I admire the sh*#t out of HRH. What woman who seeks to live an independent life of meaningful achievement wouldn’t look up to another who has clearly broken through so many barriers herself? Obviously I accepted her apology, and I hope I successfully conveyed my sincerity in doing so.
So here, beating every one with the scoop I hope, is what HRH said when she was repeatedly pressed by the press in the press conference to say whether she would seek a third term: “The reasons I gave you in my press release are still my feelings. I clearly said I believe the FEI presidency should be eight years.” Based on that, I don’t think it’s too much of a leap to assume she means she will not seek a third term, regardless of the pressure from a large majority of national federations to serve a third term. The President of the FEI is a volunteer. She can’t be forced to stay.
My head is still spinning like an Exorcist outtake from all that went down today. I have barely even mentally registered the changes to the Olympic qualifications that were voted through, and until approximately 2:30 pm today I thought that was my main reason for coming to Swatch Land.
I’ll be back tomorrow with a logging truck load of further impressions and reflections. If a post doesn’t appear within 24 hours, please call the Swiss authorities and ask them to start dragging the lake.