Former King Hussein's legacy grows in sports world

Associated Press
FILE - A Saturday, Feb. 20, 2010 photo from files showing Venus Williams from U.S., left, holding the trophy as she talks to Princess Haya, wife of Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, after she beat Victoria Azarenka from Belarus during the final of Dubai Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The newest addition to the Olympics' capital city confirms the kingdom of Jordan's growing influence in international sports. The International Equestrian Federation and its president, Princess Haya, have opened a modern headquarters in Lausanne named for King Hussein I, her late father whose values are being spread through sports by three of his children's work. The princess, an International Olympic Committee member since 2007, was joined in the elite body last year by her elder brother Prince Feisal. An increasingly important voice in the Olympic movement, he will give a keynote speech on achieving peace through sport at a United Nations conference in Geneva on Wednesday, May 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, File)
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FILE - A Saturday, Feb. 20, 2010 photo from files showing Venus Williams from U.S., left, holding the …

A new force is emerging in the Olympics, lifting the kingdom of Jordan and the legacy of the late King Hussein onto the world stage.

The newest addition in this Olympic capital city highlights Jordan's growing influence: The International Equestrian Federation and its president, Princess Haya, have opened a modern headquarters in Lausanne named after her father.

Though Jordan has never won an Olympic gold medal or qualified for the World Cup, the king's children are giving their country a strong voice in the International Olympic Committee and FIFA.

The princess, an IOC member since 2007, was joined on the committee last year by her older brother, Prince Faisal. An increasingly important figure in the Olympics, he will give a speech at a United Nations conference in Geneva on Wednesday.

Their younger brother, Prince Ali, will take his place as an elected vice president of soccer's governing body on June 1.

Haya believes their work reflects public service values taught by their father, who ruled Jordan for 46 years until his death in 1999.

"My father always said that, in the Middle East, when peace was achieved there would be a vacuum created by a lack of war," she told The Associated Press in the building that bears his name. "The only logical alternative to it was sport."

The princess suggests her father would be "slightly embarrassed" to have the headquarters named in his honor. The building was funded by his friends for an organization that has 133 national members.

"By demanding that our staff rise to a new level and change, we needed to give them a good working environment," Haya said.

The permanent memorial is a short walk from the five-star hotel where, on a family holiday in 1952, the 16-year-old crown prince Hussein received a telegram summoning him to return home as king.

"All of us are very aware of our family's historical links in Lausanne," Haya said.

Hussein's legacy in the city could endure through Faisal, younger brother of the current King Abdullah II.

Last week, IOC President Jacques Rogge visited Jordan's capital Amman to help the prince open a new home for his Generations for Peace institute, which works with young people.

"He's great on conflict resolution," Haya said of her older half-brother. "He has a very quiet away about him, the opposite of me."

She describes Ali as "like my twin, but always the much more diplomatic and pragmatic and wise of the two of us. I think he will be an incredible asset to FIFA moving forward.

"We certainly aren't about creating a family force in sport. Contributions and concrete achievements in the end is what will justify our roles, and nothing else."

Haya was the first of Hussein's children to reach high sports office, and likely will be first to leave. She imposed a two-term limit on FEI presidents, and when she steps down in 2014 at 40, her IOC membership will lapse.

"I think that is the most a person can give. I think it will be good for the FEI," she said.

Haya's urgency to solve problems — creating a new anti-doping program and shaking up some equestrian disciplines — did create tension.

"There were definitely a number of very volatile situations where I did think, 'Your father was a peacemaker, there's got to be something in your treasure box of memories that will work here'," she said.

Her federation is now preparing for the 2012 London Olympics, marking equestrian's 100th anniversary in the Summer Games. In 2000, Haya competed in show jumping at the Sydney Olympics and carried Jordan's flag at the opening ceremony.

"London is huge for the FEI because the sport is coming home, to a nation steeped in the history of our sport," said the princess, whose predecessors as president include Queen Elizabeth II's husband Prince Philip and daughter Princess Anne.

Haya hopes her father's reputation can be written into the federation's traditions.

"I very much hope that his name will continue to remind everyone who works for the FEI in generations to come, what is required of them by their members," she said.

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