27 Aug 2014

HRH Princess Haya Opens 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy France

Mr. Manuel Valls, Prime Minister of the French Government,

Mr. Laurent Beauvais, President of the Organising Committee,

Honourable Ministers,

Mayor Bruneau,

Distinguished Guests, 


Equestrian supporters from around the world,

Citizens of Normandy,


There is magic in the air tonight in this special place of lush meadows and rustic farmland, of chalk-white cliffs and gentle, horse-loving people.  This evening, we stand on the precipice of the next chapter in the history of our sport. Our hopes, dreams and expectations dance on a salty breeze that carries echoes of this region’s rich and complex history alongside whispered promises of memorable moments yet to be written. 

What a profound privilege it is to stand here as President of the International Equestrian Federation and welcome you to the Alltech FEI 2014 World Equestrian Games here in Normandy, home of the horse. 

How honoured we all are, athletes, spectators and organisers alike, to find ourselves woven into the historic tapestry of this inspirational place.

This is the land of Monet, Mont St. Michel, Rouen, the gardens of Giverny, camembert and calvados. And, of course, this is the land of the Bayeux Tapestry. This historic crossroads has been home to Celtic tribes, Roman invaders, the Franks, the Vikings, the English and the French. Names and events associated with Normandy echo through the ages — Julius Caesar, Joan of Arc, William the Conqueror and the D-Day landings.

And through it all, almost from the start, the horse has been part of Norman life and culture. Hundreds of years before the Romans arrived, the Celts worshipped the goddess Epona, protector of horses. Men and women were often buried with their horses to travel to the afterlife together.

Horses have helped define this region. They carried knights into battle. They brought crops to market.  They delivered mail. They pulled coaches, wagons and omnibuses. They provided protection and companionship, as well as reliable transportation.

In time, Normandy blossomed as a centre of excellence for horse breeding, and France emerged as a global leader in horse sport. Today, France is the most active country in the FEI, with more registered equine and human athletes, and more FEI sanctioned competitions than any other nation it seems only right that when the World Equestrian Games came home to Europe, they came to France.

We come together here to compete, to spectate, to celebrate. And there is much to celebrate before we even begin; our sport is more popular than ever, with more athletes competing in more national and international events than ever before. We are seeing new talent emerging in new regions of the world, thanks in part to the success of FEI Solidarity, our global development programme.

Over the next 16 days, we will see many amazing and inspiring performances in all eight FEI disciplines. The 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games will set a new record for participation, with 967 human athletes and 1,113 horses from every region on earth.

On behalf of everyone here tonight, and everyone around the world who will enjoy these seventh World Equestrian Games, I want to thank the people of Normandy for so warmly welcoming us to this beautiful region. I also want to thank the World Equestrian Games Foundation, Alltech, and the many volunteers who have given so generously of their time and energy. These Games could not happen without you. And of course, I want to thank all of the athletes who have come to Normandy to pursue their dreams.

You are at the pinnacle of our sport; you have earned the right to be here through your hard work and dedication.

As you each approach your individual competitions, I ask you to reflect for a moment on the emblem that was developed especially for these 2014 Games. 

This emblem illustrates the divine harmony of a respectful relationship between horse and human.  It expresses the speed and agility experienced at world championships and reminds you of your ability, as an elite athlete, to reach out and inspire people all over the world.  Its emerald colour nods to the rolling hills of our generous host region, while the white pulsing through it represents the values of fairness and transparency at the heart of the Games. 

You need only glance at this emblem to remember all that is sacred in this competition.

Whether you win or lose, these Games are sure to be a highlight of your career; I am confident that you will represent our sport well and prove yourselves to be true champions.

I wish you all the best of luck.

This is the first time in the history of the World Equestrian Games that we have had a Prime Minister at our opening ceremony, and I am truly honoured. It would be the greatest privilege for me to invite the Prime Minister to declare our Games open for us.