Japan’s Morinari Watanabe, by a landslide vote, was elected President of the International Gymnastics Federation at FIG’s 81st Congress in Tokyo to succeed Bruno Grandi who headed FIG for 20 years.
Watanabe, 57, currently Secretary General of the Japan Gymnastics Association and an FIG Executive Committee member, will take up his new position on January 1, 2017. He will be the ninth President of the FIG, the oldest Olympic sports federation, founded in 1881.
Watanabe was elected by obtaining 100 votes from the member federations gathered in Tokyo, against 19 votes for Georges Guelzec from France, the only other candidate for the Presidency.
“Thank you very much for trusting me and believing in me. I am honored to accept the position of the FIG President that was given to me by you,” said Watanabe in his acceptance speech. “President Grandi kept challenging for 20 years. I deeply respect President Grandi. The result of this election proves that President Grandi was right in what he challenged,” he added. “The time has come now for innovation in Gymnastics. Today we sent a strong message to the world. Our Gymnastics is not a sport that is popular only at the Olympic Games. Gymnastics is now and will be the king of sports.”
Morinari Watanabe, a sports business management professional, joined the Japanese Gymnastics Association in 2001 with the mission of leading a “Revival of Japanese Gymnastics” following medal-less performances at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games. Japan has won medals in Gymnastics at every Games since.
Following the election of the new President, the Congress elected three Vice Presidents. Vasily Titov (Russia), the only incumbent Vice President to offer his candidacy again, was re-elected in the first round while the two other posts went to five-time Olympic champion Nellie Kim from Belarus – winner of three gold medals at Montreal 1976 and two more at Moscow 1980 – and Luo Chaoyi (China).