Morinari Watanabe will stand for the FIG Presidency next year according to UEG chief Georges Guelzec ©FIG

Morinari Watanabe will stand for the Presidency of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), European Union of Gymnastics (UEG) head Georges Guelzec told insidethegames, with the Frenchman claiming the Japanese has been “campaigning for a year-and-a-half”.

Guelzec is the only candidate to officially declare his intention to succeed current FIG President Bruno Grandi, due to step down after 19 years at the helm at the body’s Congress in Tokyo next year, but he fully expects to be joined on the start line by Watanabe, a member of the FIG Executive Committee and is secretary general of the Japanese Gymnastics Association.

While no other members of the gymnastics fraternity have yet stepped forward, Guelzec predicted there will be more than two candidates for the role, with the eventual winner becoming only the ninth President in the organisation’s 134-year history.

Watanabe refused to comment on the claims when questioned by insidethegames.

 “He [Watanabe] is definitely going to stand as he started his campaign around one-and-a-half years ago,” Guelzec, who is also President of the French Gymnastics Federation, said here.

“There have been rumours and mentions of other names but none of these are confirmed yet.”

A fervent campaigner for change in the sport, Guelzec says he decided to make his candidacy public in order to be “transparent and open”.

He claims he has the backing of several National Federations in his bid to become the first French President of world gymnastics’ governing body since Charles Cazalet held the role between 1924 and 1933.

“I have nothing to hide and so I said to the Federations, ‘Okay, I’m going to do this,'” he added.

Should he be chosen to replace Grandi, who has overseen the sport being elevated into the top tier of the Olympic Games alongside athletics and aquatics during his time in charge, Guelzec is targeting the 2028 Games for all five gymnastics disciplines to be included.

Currently, only rhythmic, artistic and trampoline competitions are staged at the Olympics but the first steps towards getting aerobic and acrobatic events onto the programme have been taken after all five disciplines were showcased simultaneously for the first time in the sport’s history at the inaugural European Games in Baku in June.

Aerobic gymnastics was showcased at Baku 2015 but is not currently on the Olympic Programme
Aerobic gymnastics was showcased at Baku 2015 but is not currently on the Olympic Programme ©Getty Images

The proposal is very much the brainchild of Guelzec, with the UEG set to reveal a new strategic plan concocted by a new working group, established in March, at the body’s Congress in the Slovakian capital Bratislava next month.

“For swimming and athletics, all of their disciplines are Olympic,” he said.

“Athletics gives out 142 medals, swimming 138 and gymnastics only 54 which is a point we can debate with.

"The idea behind having all five disciplines at Baku was to show that it works.”

The Frenchman also revealed he will set up an administrative board to work alongside the FIG Executive Committee should he be elected as he believes decision making at the highest level of gymnastics “takes too long”.

It will be made up of elected members, including those from multi-national companies and other professionals, who will meet every month to discuss various issues.

“The FIG President and his three vice-presidents meet three times a year and that is not enough,” Guelzec said.

“The Executive Committee will still, of course, hold the power of decisions but the new Board will be able to make proposals."

Grandi announced at last year’s FIG Congress in Tashkent, Uzbekistan that he will retire in 2016, with his reign at the head of world gymnastics due to officially come to an end in December.

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