Morinari Watanabe is hoping to secure a second term as FIG President ©Getty Images

Incumbent Morinari Watanabe will face the challenge of Farid Gayibov for International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) Presidency at the governing body’s Congress in Antalya.

The FIG Presidential election will be held on the second day of the Congress, which begins tomorrow in the Turkish resort.

Watanabe is seeking a second term in office after being elected on a four-year term in 2016, before his mandate was extended for a further year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Azerbaijan’s Gayibov, elected European Gymnastics President in 2017, is seeking to unseat the Japanese official.

Both candidates have been forced to answer questions in the build-up to the election.

Japanese embassies have lobbied on behalf of Watanabe’s campaign, raising concerns over political influence in the election.

Under the rules of the Olympic Charter, Government interference that threatens the autonomy of sport is strictly prohibited.

In a letter to the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation, seen by insidethegames, Albanian Gymnastics Federation President Flobens Dilaveri said he had been contacted by the Embassy of Japan in Albania to urge him to support Watanabe in the election.

Dilaveri wrote that the actions were “outrageous, unethical and a direct interference to the autonomy of our Federation”.

Watanabe has already brushed aside concerns over the role that the Japanese Embassies were playing in his re-election campaign.

Farid Gayibov is seeking to unseat Morinari Watanabe as FIG President ©European Gymnastics
Farid Gayibov is seeking to unseat Morinari Watanabe as FIG President ©European Gymnastics

Watanabe told insidethegames in September that he respected FIG rules, insisting the embassy support was allowing him to share his ideas to national gymnastics federations he was unable to visit.

Gayibov has attempted to allay concerns his new role as Azerbaijan’s Minister of Youth and Sports would impact his ability to lead the FIG, should he be elected President.

Gayibo was appointed to the role in September as a replacement for Azad Rahimov, who died in April at the age of 58 after suffering from lung cancer.

The Congress will take place behind closed doors, with media absent as in 2016.

Agenda items include the FIG President’s report, as well as updates from the technical coordinator, continental unions, the FIG Foundation for Solidarity and the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation.

Three years of financial reports are set to be presented, along with a quadrennial plan for the 2021 to 2024 Olympic cycle.

Elections, the allocation of the next Congress, good governance, respectful culture in the sport and the Paris 2024 Olympic Games are also among items included on the agenda.

The FIG Executive Committee held their first in-person meeting since the start of the pandemic today.

The FIG Executive Committee met today prior to the Congress ©FIG
The FIG Executive Committee met today prior to the Congress ©FIG

The FIG said the meeting largely centred around reviewing final presentations before the Congress.

A new e-learning platform, which will come into operation in early 2022, was discussed.

The platform will reportedly help modernise education programmes and increase the number of participants in academies in all disciplines.

Updates were made to the level one academy and foundation courses, which will require coaches to follow theory lectures on the e-learning platform and pass an online exam to get a certificate.

They will then be able to participate in practical sessions and complete a practical examination in order to receive the academy completion diploma.

The FIG Executive Committee also confirmed the addition of a World Challenge Cup in Koper to the artistic gymnastics calendar, with the event taking place between June 16 to 19 in Slovenia.

An acrobatic gymnastics World Cup event will also take place at Puurs in Belgium from April 8 to 10.