Japanese Gymnastics Association (JGA) secretary general Morinari Watanabe has confirmed his intention to stand for the Presidency of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), it has been announced today.
insidethegames exclusively revealed last October that Watanabe, also a member of the FIG Executive Committee, would enter the race to replace Italian Bruno Grandi, who is due to step down after 20 years at the helm at the body’s Congress in Tokyo in October.
Watanabe, who led the Organising Committees for the 2009 Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships in Mie and the 2011 Artistic equivalent in Tokyo, had initially refused to comment on the suggestions that he would stand after insidethegames was told he had been campaigning for over a year-and-a-half.
The Japanese is only the second member of the gymnastics fraternity to officially confirm their candidacy, along with current European Union of Gymnastics President Georges Guelzec, ahead of the May 17 deadline.
Frenchman Guelzec told insidethegames during last year’s Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Glasgow that he fully expects more than two people to be in the running for the Presidency of FIG, however.
The winner of the Presidential election will become only the ninth person to lead the governing body in its 134-year history.
Watanabe, who is currently the Director of the Sport and Leisure Division of AEON, Japan’s largest retail company, joined the JGA in 2001 and led an overhaul of the sport in the country after they failed to earn medals at Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000.
Japan has won gymnastics medals at every Olympics since the 57-year-old’s appointment and are expected to take gold at Rio 2016 as record-breaking star Kōhei Uchimura, who clinched his sixth straight title at the 2015 Artistic World Championships, is the favourite to defend his men's all-around crown at Rio 2016.
Watanabe’s candidacy has the full backing of the JGA, whose board endorsed his bid for the top job at the FIG last month.
“Mr Watanabe is both a leader with gymnastics experience and a brilliant businessman,” JGA President Hidenori Futagi said.
“His leadership has revived Japanese gymnastics.
“I am confident that he would be able to form a new FIG by fully respecting President Grandi’s achievements as well as the FIG’s history.”