FIG Congress Underway
Delegates from 116 of the 131 FIG member federations will elect the authorities for the next four years at the 79th Congress in Cancun. 12 member federations – Albania, Botswana, Cyprus, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Paraguay, Poland, Seychelles, Syria, Tajikistan and Yemen – currently have no voting rights and are not allowed to present candidates (see FIG Bulletin 223). This means that the president of the Rhythmic Gymnastics Technical Committee Maria Szyszkowska of Poland will not be able to stand for re-election. Election does not necessarily mean there is always a choice, just that there is a vote.
The big news is that Bruno Grandi is not running unopposed for the first time since his election in 1996. While the 78-year-old Italian is expected to stay at the helm of the FIG, anything can happen. Grandi has been heavily criticised for the changes to the code, the competition format,his management style, his sometimes bizarre letters to the gymnastics community, his position on the age limit and many other things. However, his commitment to make the sport more universal has also won him support from the smaller federations. Only a small number of federations win medals at international events or actively participate in the debates shaping the sport. Less than 60 of the 131 member federations were represented in London. Of the 54 medals at stake in the FIG sports at the Olympics, 30 were won by China (12), Russia (12) and USA (6). Russia was the only country to medal in all FIG sports.
While the FIG under Grandi’s influence has done a lot to support the smaller federations, a lot of this support comes at the cost of the traditionally strong nations. Limiting teams to only five gymnasts arguably weakens the competition and leaves potential event finalists or even medal contenders at home in favour of weaker nations. For some federations, simply showing up is now enough to snag an Olympic berth. Egypt sent two WAG representatives to London simply because it was one of only two African nations to even take part in the qualifying process.
Grandi’s opponents are the MTC president Adrian Stoica (Romania) and high profile banker Vasily Titov (Russia). For an overview of the programmes see this article. Stoica, who opposed the open ended scoring system prior to its introduction, also heads the Romanian Gymnastics Federation. As president of the MTC, he has been at the heart of two of the greatest scandals in recent Olympic history. Athens 2004, perhaps one of the most disastrous competitions in the history of men’s gymnastics, and London 2012. The men’s team final saw Ukraine loose a medal due to a controversial decision after the competition had already concluded.
Titov, not related to former FIG president Yuri Titov, brings no gymnastic background to the table but has served on the Executive Committee for the past cycle. He is the First Deputy President of the VTB bank which is the general sponsor of the Russian Artistic Gymnastics Federation and also an FIG sponsor. Russia is one of the most successful member federations of the FIG, qualified more gymnasts to London 2012 than any other federation (21 out of a possible 22) and has been one of the top nations for decades. Their biggest PR problem is probably Rhythmic Gymnastics. The sport is taken seriously in very few countries outside the former Soviet Union and the perception that there is no breathing room for any country other than Russia could be off-putting to some.
The FIG has seven Technical Committees – Gymnastics for All, Men’s, Women’s, Rhythmic Gymnastics, Trampoline, Aerobics and Acrobatic. Each Technical Committee consists of a president and six members. Three will see new presidents. Five of the seven candidates for president are running unopposed.
Tonya Case (USA) is not standing for re-election as head of the Acrobatic committee and will be succeeded by Belgian Rosy Taemans, who is running unopposed. The Men’s Technical Committee and the Rhythmic Gymnastics Technical Committee will actually see a real battle – Adrian Stoica is being challenged by Steven Butcher (USA). Interestingly enough, Stoica is not a candidate for a member position.
Natalia Kuzmina (Russia) and Danielle Delle Chiaie (Italy) are going head-to-head for the presidency of the Rhythmic Gymnastics.
The MTC is also seems to be the most attractive committee in the FIG with seven new candidates vying for a spot. The list includes two former greats in Hiroyuki Tomita (Japan) and Bohdan Makuts (Ukraine). Five of the seven are from Europe, weakening the chances of each individual European candidate of getting elected. A fact often lamented within European gymnastics but it would require each federation to step down and support another federation’s candidate.
The FIG Congress was officially opened with a meeting of the Presidential Commission on 23 October. The FIG president will be elected on 26 October.