Bruno Grandi gave his final opening address to the Congress as President ©FIG

Membership of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) has grown to 148 nations after six countries were added on the opening day of the world governing body’s 81st Congress here.

Aruba, American Samoa, Cameroon, Cook Islands, Fiji and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines all had their applications formally ratified by the Congress.

Six Member Federations, however, remain suspended due to issues with paying FIG fees - Central African Republic, Macedonia, Mauritius, Tajikistan, Uganda and Zambia.

Kuwait are also currently banned as part of their worldwide sporting exile following the implementation of new sports laws in July, which granted the Government power to take over all sports bodies and National Federations, as well as being able to control decisions including appointments and financial matters.

They remain suspended from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) - which meant Kuwaiti athletes at Rio 2016 were forced to compete under the Olympic Flag - as well as FIFA and the International Swimming Federation among others.

According to the FIG, 117 Member Federations were present during the Congress, although this number could change during tomorrow’s crucial day of elections as some nations have been experiencing travel issues and may yet still arrive to cast their historic vote.

A total of 10 countries - Angola, Bolivia, Congo, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay and the Seychelles - will not have voting rights during the elections, it was confirmed today.

This is because they have been suspended for at least a week in the past two years.

The six new members will also not be able to vote.

Members will take to the polls here tomorrow to elect the replacement for President Bruno Grandi, who is stepping down in December of this year after 20 years in charge.

Six new Member Federations became a part of the FIG on the first day of the Congress ©FIG
Six new Member Federations became a part of the FIG on the first day of the Congress ©FIG

The 82-year-old Italian will be replaced by either European Union of Gymnastics head Georges Guelzec or Morinari Watanabe, the secretary general of the Japan Gymnastics Association.

Due to the fact there are only two candidates, a simple majority is required in the first round, with the winner becoming just the ninth head of the governing body since it was established in 1881.

Three vice-presidents and seven Executive Committee members will also be appointed.

Grandi, who has overseen a number of major changes to the sport, including the scrapping of the perfect 10 scoring system and getting gymnastics into the top tier of the Olympic Games along with athletics and aquatics, gave his final opening address to the Congress before proceedings got underway.

"This is a sad time for me but I am proud of the work we have done," he said.

"We have made great progress in the Olympic Movement.

"I am proud that gymnastics is in the first tier of Olympic sports.

"We have obtained this result thanks to the work we have all done together.

"It is also a special moment for me because it is my last Congress as FIG President after 20 years.

"I am going to hand over the baton to someone you are going to choose this week."

Baku, host of the inaugural European Games, will stage the 2018 FIG Congress ©Getty Images
Baku, host of the inaugural European Games, will stage the 2018 FIG Congress ©Getty Images

insidethegames understands 57-year-old Watanabe, widely credited for the gymnastics revolution in his native country, is the favourite to become the new President.

One Member Federation told insidethegames that he "had it in the bag", although others, including Watanabe himself, have erred on the side of caution, insisting anything can happen in an election.

It is thought the Asian countries will vote for the Japanese en-bloc, with the European vote - which Guelzec is hedging his bets on - likely to be much more split.

It was also decided today that Baku, host of the inaugural European Games last year, where all five gymnastics disciplines - aerobic, acrobatic, rhythmic, artistic and trampoline - were showcased simultaneously for the first time, would stage the 2018 Congress.

Presidents of the four Continental Unions - in Asia, Africa, Europe and Pan America - gave their reports, while the success of gymnastics competitions at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro was also highlighted during the opening session.

Tomorrow’s proceedings are due to begin with an address from IOC President Thomas Bach before the members elect a new President for the first time in two decades.