OUTGOING FIG President Bruno Grandi has made some sweeping changes to the sport, which attracted a lot of flak, but the 82-year-old stood by his decisions, saying, “gymnastics is all about romanticism and beauty”.
“When I took over in 1996, I saw the domination of East Europeans, mainly the Russians and Romanians. I wanted to break their hegemony and give other nations a chance to compete and win medals. I’m happy that I could make gymnastics a universal sport,” Italian Grandi told Doha Stadium Plus as he recalled his two-decade stint at the world body’s helm and the several changes he made.
What’re the most important achievements you’ve made in the last 20 years?
I imposed an age limit for female gymnasts. It was difficult to see a seven or eight-year-old being readied to be rolled out as a champion. You expect your daughter to be safe with her coach, but in certain countries, strict training regimes can be a nightmare.
You faced a lot of criticism regarding the new points system...
Everybody said I would ruin the sport. I’m glad the new points system is working fine and everybody is happy. The division between the points given for difficulty and style in execution was my decision.
Gymnasts, who execute difficult routines stylistically, will win maximum points. But those who do a difficult routine without any focus on the aesthetic sense will lose points. That was the biggest transformation I made as FIG’s chief.
You also made it mandatory to insure athletes...
Yes, I did. My career as a gymnast wasn’t easy at the beginning. So when I made it a rule for gymnasts to have insurance, everybody thought I wanted to steal money by imposing insurance. Now, I guess, I’m well-respected.
What would be your advice to the new president?
I wish (Morinari) Watanabe all the best. I hope the FIG will continue to work with the same sense of justice and dedication under him. Every athlete wants to win a medal, but it shouldn’t be the only goal. When a gymnast executes his performance correctly, he should keep in mind the sport is all about romanticism and beauty. Think about the audience and make it more eye-pleasing and entertaining.