— Published 8 November 2021

Rolland, Konietzko and Watanabe, Presidents

With less than 1,000 days to go before the start of the Paris 2024 Games, the governance of the Olympic movement is gradually being put in place. Three elections followed one another in a few hours, during the last weekend, in the international federations of summer sports. One was a foregone conclusion. The other two were a little suspenseful.

No surprise at the International Rowing Federation (World Rowing). The Frenchman Jean-Christophe Rolland, 53 years old, who entered the presidential office for the first time in the fall of 2013, was the only candidate for his succession. He was unanimously re-elected on Saturday, November 6, during the annual congress of the body, organized in virtual mode.

Jean-Christophe Rolland was re-elected for four years. His new mandate, the third consecutive one, will run until December 31, 2025. The positions of vice-president and treasurer are also stable. Canadian Tricia Smith, who had competed with Jean-Christophe Rolland (and Australian John Boultbee) to succeed Denis Oswald in September 2013, retains her seat as vice-president for a third term. Dutchman Gerritjan Eggenkamp was re-elected for a full term as World Rowing Treasurer.

There was a change in leadership at the International Canoe Federation (ICF). The scenario was announced after the decision of the outgoing president, the Spaniard Jose Perurena, not to seek a new mandate. It remained to find a successor.

Two men stood before the voters: the German Thomas Konietzko (photo above) and the Russian Evgenii Arkhipov. The first was designated favorite, the second carrying like a ball and chain the membership of a country, Russia, excluded from the Olympic movement until December 2022.

The vote confirmed the prognosis. The day of his 58th birthday, Thomas Konietzko crushed his competitor, Saturday, November 6, winning 94% of the votes.

After a long time under the Latin flag (Jose Perurena as president and the Frenchman Tony Estanguet as vice-president), the ICF changes its culture. Germany is taking advantage of the opportunity to retain a second international federation presidency (the other is held by Klaus Schormann at the International Modern Pentathlon Union), before the announced departure of Thomas Weikert from the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF).

The diversity of our disciplines is our greatest strength,” suggested the new ICF man in his first presidential address. But it is also our greatest challenge, because there are so many different interests to consider, and that is why we must all stay united. We don’t need a revolution to make our federation ready for the future, but we do need evolution.”

One rank below the German leader, the world canoe and kayak body has renewed its hierarchy, with the election of three vice presidents from three different continents: Argentina’s Cecila Farias, China’s Aijie Liu and Spain’s Lluis Rabaneda. The Italian Luciano Buonfiglio, on the other hand, had to fight hard to keep his position as ICF Treasurer.

Stability, also, at the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG). The body held its elective congress in Antalya, Turkey. With a key moment: the election to the presidency.

On the starting line, two men: the Japanese Morinari Watanabe, the outgoing, and the Azerbaijani Farid Gayibov, the challenger. A favorite and an outsider, certainly, but a vote presented as undecided. Farid Gayibov was not the first candidate to come along. He is president of the European Union of Gymnastics (UEG). He is also the Secretary of State for Youth and Sports in Azerbaijan.

Verdict: a victory for Morinari Watanabe, by 81 votes against 47 to his European rival. In 2016, the Japanese had obtained a clearer success for his first election at the FIG presidency, beating the French Georges Guelzec, then head of the UEG, by 100 votes against 19.

Note: Morinari Watanabe was re-elected for a shortened mandate. The congress of the authority adopted a resolution according to which the leading team will remain in place until December 31, 2024, after having completed a five-year mandate due to the pandemic of COVID-19 and the postponement of the Tokyo Games.

The Asian leader was criticized before the election, with the opposition accusing him of using Japanese embassies abroad to campaign. He defended himself, explaining that his country’s diplomatic network allowed him to convey his ideas to national federations in countries where he could not travel. The nuance is subtle.