No Go Rio? FEI counters rumors in headlines, assures equestrian community the Games are on

If you’re like me, you were greeted by a deluge of distressing news headlines this morning. Media as credible as the Washington Post and the NBC Olympics website itself were reporting that the future looks bleak for the equestrian sport venue outside Rio to be able to host the 2016 Olympics events.

No, the problem isn’t glanders this time or any other equine disease, for that matter. It’s bureaucracy: the Brazilian government simply hasn’t issued the proper changes to procedure that will allow horses from North America, Europe and other parts of the world to visit the country for a short time and leave again.

Brazilian National Federation President Luiz Roberto Giugni blew the whistle earlier this week, taking the Ministry of Agriculture to task for not finishing the process..

The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) issued a statement late this morning clarifying the predicament, and assuring the world’s equestrian stakeholders that the games will go on…with horses.

“We have been working for some time with Rio2016, the Brazilian and Rio Authorities and the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture to get the Veterinary Certificate and Protocol approved that will define the conditions for importation and exportation of the horses that will compete at the Rio Olympic Games.

“The process of approval of the equine health certificate by the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture has already taken a lot of time and is still not finalised. This has an important impact as it delays the planning and preparation of the horses that will take part in the Games.

“As the President of the Brazilian Equestrian National Federation, Luiz Robert Giugni has supported us very actively during these negotiations and we appreciate that in his efforts to help the equestrian community in the discussions with his compatriots he is applying all possible pressure to achieve this.

“We have had further discussions earlier this week and I expect the Ministry of Agriculture to issue this certificate very soon so that we can carry on with preparations for the Olympic Games and that the biosecurity protocols will ensure the safe import and export of the Olympic horses. Therefore we are confident that our horses will be allowed to travel back and forth to Rio to participate in the 2016 Olympic Games together with all the other Olympic sports. We are looking forward to very successful Olympic equestrian events in Deodoro next year.”

At the same time that the FEI was issuing its statement, the Ministry of Agriculture (MAPA) in Brazil also spoke up, defending its process, and saying in part:

“The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA) states that since 2011 the country has been preparing for the Olympic Games and in the process, concluded in April 2015, the definition of equine ticket protocols in Brazil for exams equestrian. The country strictly follows the calendar and in a timely manner, i.e. 120 days before the test event, which took place last August, all protocols were adopted and published for public knowledge. 

“The (MAPA) rule out any possibility of non-realization of events in Rio de Janeiro, in the period of 5 to 21 August 2016 due to jurisdictional issues in this folder. Nor was there any official communication from the competent international authorities aware of the possibility of non-occurrence of the event in Brazil. The protocols were formalized through two Normative Instructions (IN) numbers 7 and 8, documents established specific requirements to the Olympics and related the zoosanitary rules of Brazil for the temporary admission of horses in excellent health status to participate in the competitions.

“These rules were widely internationally disseminated via the World Trade Organization (WTO), and sent directly to Mercosur, the European Union, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the International Equestrian Federation (FEI). 

“They are rules that establish modern requirements to facilitate the movement of international horses. The terms of the Normative Ruling (IN) have been discussed over the last three years with entities from various countries and international organizations, as well as FEI itself. As for the output protocols, each country sets its return requirements and Brazil is aware and fully able to comply with the rules guaranteeing the horses return preserving health measures. The rules were set to ensure that horses from entering the country without health risk and also return to countries of origin without any illness.”

In other words, these things take time. And the FEI seems to be patient, or at least more patient than Mr. Giugni at the Brazilian Equestrian Federation. Perhaps it was just a slow news day, and the press hit on the idea of a potential Olympics crisis as the perfect fill-in story.

On the other hand, horse sports do seem to have one hoof on the endangered list when it comes to their future in the Olympics, and that’s a subject the FEI is planning to start attacking at its next assembly. Negative press about the special facilities, legalities and governmental oversight of horses is not exactly the type of laundry that the FEI would like to see hanging out to dry in the world media.

Perhaps today’s story was much ado about nothing, but how much of the whole world clicked on that headline, without knowing what we know now?

Top photo began with a lovely Creative Commons image of an anonymous water-splashed notebook by Sam Salt. Thank you.




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