— Published 24 September 2021

David Lappartient stays, René Fasel steps aside

A striking contrast. In just 24 hours, two international federations of an Olympic sport will invite their voters to a presidential election. But everything is different between the two votes. For the first, the outcome is already decided. In the second, the battle promises to be tough.

First of all, the UCI. The world cycling body will not change its head. Frenchman David Lappartient (pictured above, left), first elected in 2017 in Bergen, Norway, is the only candidate in the run for the presidential seat. Under the UCI constitution, he will be re-elected this Friday, September 24th, in Leuven, Belgium, without the need for a vote.

Four years earlier, the Breton had to manoeuvre skilfully to overthrow the outgoing British representative, David Cookson. David Lappartient was able to rely on the right supporters, Russia’s Igor Makarov and Italy’s Renato Di Rocco, to move seamlessly from the seat of President of the European Cycling Union (UEC) to the one of the first elected members of the UCI. The world after Europe, a meteoric rise for a leader who is now only 48 years old and who is also president of the Morbihan departmental council.

According to his own analysis, the absence of a rival can be explained by the fact that the national federations “are satisfied with the work accomplished”. But the Frenchman acknowledges it: only 90% of the 2022 agenda presented at the beginning of the mandate has been achieved. Not bad, but not perfect. Among his successes, the organisation in 2023 in Glasgow of a unified world championship, the first of its kind, where all the Olympic disciplines will be gathered.

Another setting is St Petersburg. On Saturday, September 25th, the Swiss René Fasel (photo above, right) will hand over the keys to his office as president of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). At 71, the former dentist is turning the page. As the thirteenth president of the body, he has been its most influential. Since his first election in 1994, René Fasel has transformed the IIHF in a way that none of his predecessors had even considered.

When he took over, the body had four full-time employees. Today it includes thirty. Its budget has been multiplied by four. Above all, René Fasel has made a major contribution to the participation of NHL players in the Olympic Winter Games. A breach opened in Nagano in 1998, and never closed again, except for the PyeongChang Games in 2018. By his own admission, the “peak” of his presidential career.

On Wednesday, September 22nd, Vladimir Putin himself paid tribute to him in a welcome message at the opening of the IIHF Congress in St Petersburg. “René Fasel is an extremely responsible, competent, energetic and open-minded leader, who stands out not only for his brilliant organisational skills and enormous experience, but also for his sincere passion for ice hockey,” suggested the Russian president.

It is a classic phenomenon: the announcement of his departure has given rise to vocations. There will be five candidates standing for election on Saturday, September 25th, in St Petersburg: Denmark’s Henrik Bach-Nielsen, Czech Petr Břiza, Belarus’ Sergey Goncharov, Germany’s Franz Reindl and France’s Luc Tardif. What they have in common is that they are all already members of the IIHF Council.

With such a cast, and the likely scenario of a multi-round ballot, the election looks very uncertain. René Fasel did not take sides with any of the candidates, at least publicly, but the Swiss did not hide his feelings about the reality of the battle.

“If out of five candidates, three have a real chance of being elected, there is surely a breeding ground for a potential conflict,” he recently told the Swiss website bluewin.ch. “There are people in this circle who overestimate themselves, who apply for political reasons and who, for example, aim for the vice-presidential seat. There are candidates I am personally convinced of. And others, who do not know what the challenges and requirements of the position are.”

The five candidates will present their vision and programme to the IIHF Congress on Friday, September 24th. The vote will take place the following day in St. Petersburg. The only thing that is certain is that René Fasel’s successor will be European, like the last three presidents of the body.