A brief view of gymnastics in Ecuador

Universidad Pedagógica Experimental Libertador - Maracay
Magíster en Educación: Mención Enseñanza de la Literatura en Inglés
Doctora en Filosofía de la Educación
Rosa López de D’Amico




    This article presents an overview of sport organisation in Ecuador. It is a case study in artistic gymnastics. It is focused on the Ecuador Gymnastics Federation as it is the governing body of gymnastics in this country. The article introduces the management and structure of gymnastics at the national level. The research was conducted using documents provided by the Federation and open questionnaires sent to the participants. The written information was reinforced by the opinions of the participants. Seven members of the organisation participated in this research from different groups: administrator, coach, judge and gymnast.

http://www.efdeportes.com/ Revista Digital - Buenos Aires - Año 8 - N° 48 - Mayo de 2002

1 / 2


    The study of any sport organisation requires an exhaustive review of documents and an understanding of the culture that is the subject of study. To look at sports which are not professional or not popular within the local culture, limits considerably the amount of information that can be gathered and limits the researcher to asking the organisation for their documents. This task becomes even harder when the study is based on countries or areas of the world which are not considered among the top ones based on economic principles.

    This study was possible thanks to the immense cooperation of the participants. It is a qualitative research (Biklen & Bogdan, 1992; Hitchcock & Hughes, 1995) that was based on document review and participation from some members of the organisation. There is very limited material written in the world sport data base that can be requested to review sport in Ecuador. There are also few documents available from the Federation, so most of the information comes from the participants themselves. Furthermore, the participants were the greatest source of information. Their names are not mentioned due to ethical issues.

    In order to collect data from the participants, a combination of techniques was used (Burgess, 1982; Patton, 1987). Initially semi-structured interviews were planned, however due to some circumstances, they had to be cancelled. Nevertheless, their participation was possible due to the interest of the Federation to be in the research, and the support of its president who advised the researcher to send the questions to them. Four different sets of questions in Spanish were sent to eight possible participants divided into two per group, i.e., two administrators, two coaches, two gymnasts and two judges. The eight sets of questions were sent in individual envelopes, including a tape for recording their answers (if they preferred) and a consent form. Seven participants returned their answers: three in tapes, two sent written answers and two by electronic mail. The participants were contacted on different occasions by electronic mail and post; they were always eager to support the research.

    This paper presents one part of a bigger research that was initiated in early 1998 (López de D’Amico, 2000). The request to the Ecuador Gymnastics Federation to participate in the research was initiated in early 1999. The paper is divided into several parts, it starts with some brief information about the country, later it includes an introduction to the national sport organisation and then continues with a general view of the gymnastics organisation in Ecuador.

General Information
Area (sq Km): 283,561
Population: 12,174,628 (1998 official estimate)
Language: Spanish (official), but Quechua is widely spoken

    The República de Ecuador is located on the west coast of South America. It borders in the north with Colombia; south and east with Peru and in the west with the Pacific Ocean. The political division is 21 provinces, cantons and parishes (Europa Publications Limited, 1999; Reed Business Information, 1999; Whitaker, 1999). Ecuador is a democratic country that has been facing serious political instability in recent years. It shares the political history of Latin American countries in terms of conquest by Spaniards and Military Dictatorship (Galeano, 1995), and is classified as a developing country. Ecuador has a mixed population and its people are proudly descendants of the Incas.

    Sport in Ecuador is under the umbrella of the Ecuador Ministry of Education and Culture. The Consejo Nacional de Deportes (CND) - National Sports Council functions as a sub secretary body of the Ministry. The other national body is Federación Deportiva Nacional - National Sport Federation (FEDENADOR) which is formed by the Provincial Sports Federations. These Federations embrace Associations or Provincial Committees from each sport. Each association is formed by at least three legally recognized clubs. If they do not achieve this requirement, the Provincial Sport Federation is responsible for organising a temporary Sport Committee. The National Sport Federations are charged to represent each sport practised nationally and internationally. The Comité Olímpico Ecuatoriano (COE) - Ecuador Olympic Committee was founded in 1925 and was recognized by the IOC in 1959 (Ecuador and Olympism, 1982; I. Flor, personal communication, March 1, 1999).

    The national sport bodies according to the National Physical Education, Sport and Recreation Law (Congreso Nacional de Ecuador, 1990) are divided into six levels:

    The National Physical Education, Sport and Recreation Body - Dirección Nacional de Educación Física, Deportes y Recreación (DINADER) is also under the umbrella of the Ministry of Education and Culture; this structure disappeared in recent years and instead the National Direction of Scholastic Centres - Dirección Nacional de Centros Escolares (DINCE) was created (I. Flor, personal communication, May 3, 2000; N. Luzardo, personal communication, May 30, 2000). This body is responsible for coordinating the development of physical education, recreation, and the sport infrastructure in Ecuador.

Ecuador Gymnastics Federation

    The Federación Ecuatoriana de Gimnasia - Ecuador Gymnastics Federation (FEG) was created in 1972, however it had been established before as an Association. There is no written published record of gymnastics history in Ecuador, however from personal communication with Ivan Flor (May 3, 2000), it is believed that gymnastics was introduced by German pedagogues in early 1900, who brought the first apparatus to several famous and traditional schools: Colegio Militar Eloy Alfaro; Colegio Nacional Mejia and Colegio Juan Montalvo. But it was in 1950 that an enthusiastic group started practising “olympic gymnastics” as it was nominated. Since its initiation in the 70s, the FEG has had four presidents; the actual board was elected in 1997 and is chaired by Ivan Flor.

    The members of the Board manage the Federation in terms of administrative and financial affairs. They also have to be concerned with the technical aspects suggested by the permanent technical commissions. The FEG manages the national gymnastics program, national teams, and courses. The members of the Board control the development of gymnastics in the country.

    The National Sports Council and the Ecuador Olympic Committee are the two national bodies that manage sport in Ecuador and the FEG is under their umbrella. The FEG abides by the statutes of the COE and the National Sport Federation. The statutes and regulations have been in place since 1979. Since 1999 there have been some attempts to modify them (I. Flor, personal communication, March 1, 1999).

    The FEG is supported by funding received from the National Sport Council and donations. The funding for sport comes from a 5% tax on income from telephone calls, created by the government. Until 1998 this fund was given to the provincial associations. In October 1998 the National Sport Federations started receiving the 5% funding.

    The main goal of the FEG is to develop gymnastics in the country; that is to make gymnastics in all its disciplines known to the population; to qualify “our physical education teachers and coaches in general; to improve the efficiency of the judges; to make our gymnasts enjoy the practice of gymnastics and to get better results in the international arena in the future” (Ivan Flor, personal communication, January 14, 2000).


    The FEG has about 30 trained coaches, and 65 Judges classified as: 30 Women (25 National and 5 International); 35 Men (30 National and 5 International). The number of gymnasts is classified as follows: 100 infantiles (pre-junior gymnasts:); 50 juniors; and 25 seniors (Federación Ecuatoriana de Gimnasia, April 17, 2000). The amount of 100 gymnasts is derived from those that have attained a certain level but maybe the total number, including young practitioners is 300 (I. Flor, personal communication, May 3rd, 2000). There is no payment of fees for annual registration.


    Ecuador is a country divided into 21 provinces. Gymnastics is practised in 12 provinces. There are few registered gymnastics clubs; they are officially in Quito and Guayaquil. The structures of the FEG are: The Assembly, Board, and Committees.

    The provincial associations have been the ones traditionally in charge of developing gymnastics from mass sport to elite (I. Flor, personal communication, April 17, 2000). They develop the sport in the province and they are also the sport body that receives the most government funding. The provincial associations are under the responsibility of the provincial federations.

    The National Assembly meets annually and it is formed by the provincial associations. The recognized Provinces that participated in the last National Open Championship have the right to vote to elect the Board. They have the right to have two delegates participate, both with rights to vote and speak (Federación Ecuatoriana de Gimnasia, 1997).

    Members of the Board are: President, vice president, secretary, treasurer, legal representative, three members and their three substitutes. There are three permanent commissions: Technical, Financial, and Legal (rewards and sanctions). These Commissions are each chaired by one of the three members of the Board, plus two other members appointed by the Board. The structure is as follows:

Figure 1: Ecuador Gymnastics Federation Structure

MAG: Men’s Artistic Gymnastics WAG: Women’s Artistic Gymnastics
RS: Rhythmic Gymnastics SA: Sport Aerobics
(Federación Ecuatoriana de Gimnasia, 2000, p. 3)

    The members of the Board are elected in an Ordinary Election Assembly every four years; they can be re-elected. To be a Board member it is necessary to be an Ecuadorian citizen; to represent any of the Associations or Gymnastics Committee recognised by the FEG; to have been involved in the sport management of their province; not to have any problem with the law; not to be under suspension of any gymnastics body affiliated to the FEG. No athlete can be a member of the FEG Board (FEG, 1997). The requisites follow the established criteria of the National Sport Law and the FEG Statutes and Regulations. The President of the Federation cannot have managerial functions in any sport body under the Federation umbrella (Congreso Nacional de Ecuador, 1990). The Associations or provincial committees are in charge of electing the FEG at the Assembly. The election is nominal and secret, even for the substitute positions. The network is via the Technical Committees; the members of the Committee are appointed by the Board (I. Flor, personal communication, May 5, 2000).

Technical Organisation

    The technical organisation is divided among the different technical committees. There are technical committees for Women’s Artistic Gymnastics, Men’s Artistic Gymnastics, Rhythmic gymnastics, and Sport Aerobics. The coordinators are appointed by the Federation.

    Coaches are normally ex-gymnasts who have gone through courses, or Physical Education teachers who have specialised in gymnastics. There is not an Education scheme and the coaches are not classified in levels; the technical commissions are working on this area (I. Flor, personal communication, March 1, 1999). The provincial Associations have traditionally hired national coaches or foreign coaches, and the FEG has asked the Provincial Associations to borrow them. The network is via the technical Committees. The Technical committees nominate the coaches to represent overseas; the Board decides.

    Anyone who passes the judges course can become a gymnastics judge; the courses are at provincial, national and international levels. Judges are classified as Provincial, National and International. National and International judges have to renew their brevet every Olympic cycle. (I. Flor, personal communication, March 1, 1999). Judges do not pay annual registration fees. The network communication is via the technical committees. The technical committee nominates the judges to represent the country overseas and the Board decides. (FEG, 1997). Judges have to pay their expenses to participate in courses; the expenses for attending competitions are partially covered.

    Gymnasts are classified in three categories: Pre-junior (Infantil), Junior, and Senior. Annual registration is not compulsory. The Technical Commissions establish the technical requirements. The selection procedures are based on the results of the established trials (I. Flor, personal communication, March 1, 1999). Gymnasts cannot be Board members and their network connection is through the technical committees. The Board designates the members of the delegation to represent Ecuador overseas (FEG, 1997) .

Obstacles and Key Elements

    Members of the organisation were asked about the obstacles and key elements that had influenced gymnastics to become a successful sport in terms of performance at the international level. There were two specific questions related to variables for success or obstacles to artistic gymnastics development and international exposure. One of the question addressed was: what in their opinions were the variables that have prevented Ecuador achieving better performance? Another question asked about the key elements for gymnastics success or development in Ecuador.

    The variables mentioned are categorised in table 1 according to the terms used by the participants. The intention is to make the results more meaningful to all members of the organisation and to use the terminology they are more familiar with.

Table 1: Obstacles and key elements for gymnastics development in Ecuador

Seven participants. The percentage values refer to the number of people interviewed.
The lack of percentage (%) values is due to the fact that particular issues were only mentioned by one interviewee.

    The problems most mentioned by the interviewees referred to: financial limitations, lack of government support, lack of appropriate equipment, poor facilities to practise gymnastics, lack of promotion of the sport and consequently a limited number of practitioners. There are many aspects, which are connected with the management of the sport in particular: lack of a coaches education scheme, coaches’ status, lack of communication, corruption, strategic planning, few leaders and finally poor management in terms of setting clear objectives to follow. The participants observed that the biggest problem is the lack of involvement by the government with sport e.g., “there is no government plan to develop amateur sport, this is the biggest limitation” (coach). The lack of a sport infrastructure to develop amateur sport has affected many areas: lack of coach education, lack of support by the provincial bodies, poor popularity of gymnastics, inadequate facilities, among others. The cultural variable was related to the fact that the sport is not popular or well-known in the country.

    The lack of funding in Ecuador was mentioned by 100% of the interviewees. They also mentioned the corruption that exists at the provincial federations level. Until very recently this level of administration used to receive more funding than the national federation (interview with administrator). The national federation started to receive some funding in 1ate 1998; the economic restriction was worse in the past although it is still very difficult (I. Flor, personal communication, May 2, 2000). Paz and Merino (1980) indicated that sometimes coaches at schools are “hired because they know and practise the sport, not necessarily because they are graduates or professionals” (p. 188).

    In regard to the key elements for success in performance, some participants preferred to use the word development. It is quite true that success is related to the perspective and objectives of each organisation. Nevertheless, the participants were informed that success in this context referred to international performance. Some participants were very objective and indicated that they have had no key elements for success because they have not achieved it. The lack of funding from the government has made it very hard to develop this sport however for some participants, the individual spirit of some people has been a key element, e.g., “in spite of our limitations, our country has had some representations and success at the international level. This has been achieved thanks to the individual work of each person, their love for gymnastics and willingness of personal development” (administrator).


    The FEG joined the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) in 1971 (Barrull, 1984). Ecuador has never participated with a full team in a World Championships, only with individuals. They have participated in Bolivarianos Games, South American Games, and Pan American Games. They have never participated with a full team in the Olympic Games, however there is data that in the 1968 Olympic Games they participated with three men gymnasts (Ecuador and Olympism, 1982). They are Sergio Luna, Jorge Campos and Eduardo Nájera. This is the only participation of Ecuador gymnastics in the Olympic Games so far. Their greatest achievement was in the 1978 South American Gymnastics Championships in which Ecuador got the team championship and several individual medals. In recent years there have been some achievements at the South American level with pre-junior and junior gymnasts.

Lecturas: Educación Física y Deportes · http://www.efdeportes.com · Año 8 · Nº 48   sigue Ü