FINA First Vice President Husain Al Musallam of Kuwait stands as a front-runner to replace 84-year-old FINA President Julio Maglione, who has held the post since 2009. Al Musallam’s bid for FINA President is buoyed by his recent endorsement by the Government of Kuwait.
Kuwait’s National Olympic Committee is no stranger to controversy and sanctions. From October 27th, 2015, until July 5th, 2019, the Kuwait Olympic Committee (KOC) was banned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) due to laws passed by Kuwait’s government that allowed elected officials to meddle with or dissolve sports leagues or teams that it had ideological issues with. Though Kuwait remains a sovereign nation, such limitations and interference by the government go against the Olympic Charter and therefore warranted the KOC’s four-year ban, which resulted in Kuwaiti athletes competing under the neutral Olympic flag at the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Through all of the controversy, and even against the wishes of Kuwait Swimming Association (KSA) itself, Al Musallam has held onto immense power in FINA as well as the Olympic Committee of Asia (OAC). In 2017, FINA Executive Director Cornel Marculescu denounced the KSA and its request to remove Al Musallam from the FINA Bureau. Marculescu labeled the KSA a “group of persons or persons who are neither qualified nor recognized as having any authority to commit our suspended member.” The KSA, which was at the time suspended by FINA, had decided to elect new leadership and thereby request the removal of Al Musallam from all positions of international authority as one its representatives, and it is these decisions that Marculescu refused to validate in 2017.
Al Musallam was elected to First Vice President in 2017 despite lacking the approval of his own federation, owing to allegations of corruption including an investigation by the United States Department of Justice and a voice recording of Al Musallam demanding a commission of a FINA sponsorship.
In order to be elected for a third term as FINA President in 2017, Maglione, at the age of 79 in 2015, used his power to side-step FINA’s established rules and abolish the age limit that would have prevented him from seeking re-election to a third term in 2017. Maglione’s only substantial competition for the presidency in 2017 was Italy’s Paolo Barelli who was handily defeated at the FINA Convention in Budapest by a margin of 258-77.