Outgoing International Canoe Federation president Jose Perurena has received a standing ovation from delegates and a passionate farewell message from IOC President Thomas Bach after delivering his final address on the opening day of the sport’s congress in Rome.

President Bach congratulated his “valued friend” via video for his strong leadership and the role he has played in securing and guaranteeing the future of canoeing.

“The strong standing of canoeing is because of the work of all at the ICF, but especially the strong leadership of Jose Perurena,” Bach said.

“The ICF is fit for the future, on and off the water. The ICF always leads the way with innovation, introducing exciting new disciplines that will inspire a younger generation.

“You have set a strong foundation for your successor to build on. On a personal note, thank you for your friendship which I have valued dearly for many years and will continue to do so in the future.”

Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago also praised Perurena during his opening address to the congress, saying his dedication to fight, defend and support canoeing had produced results which were “very clear before your eyes”.

 Perurena is stepping down from the role of president after three Olympic cycles in the position. His involvement with canoeing dates back to his days as an athlete, competing for Spain in the men’s K4 1000 in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico.

In a passionate final address the outgoing president urged the ICF to continue to adapt to stay relevant to a changing sporting demographic.

“We need to face the future together,” Perurena said.

“The IOC is in a great moment of change, and all the federations are working to offer the best of our sports. We cannot just leave our problems.

“We have to evolve. If we remain stuck, we will not have a future. We have to be ready if the IOC asks us to make changes. We have to protect our quotas.”

Perurena said he was proud of many achievements, including the increase in the number of women on the ICF board from two in 2008 to eight currently. He said he was also leaving the ICF in a much stronger position financially than when he took on the role.

The outgoing president also praised the work of the ICF headquarters in Lausanne, pointing out it ranked near the bottom for the number of employees among Olympic federations, but produced results which ranked it near the top.

Three new federations were successfully added to the ICF on the opening day of congress, with the Sierra Leone Canoe Association, Canoe Federation of Kosovo and the Saudi Canoe and Kayak Federation all overwhelmingly endorsed to become full members.

Outgoing ICF vice-president Tony Estanguet also delivered a video address to the congress, confirming he would not be remaining on the ICF board because of his role as President of the Organising Committee for Paris 2024.

He said he would not be able to devote the time required as member of the ICF board, but urged the congress to continue to work for the future of canoeing.

“Some people may oppose new disciplines, but I am convinced our diversity is one of our real strengths,” he said.

“Canoe sprint, canoe slalom and paracanoe are our three leading disciplines, and the stronger they are, the more we can support all our discipines.”

The ICF congress will continue until Saturday, when a vote on a new president and other positions will take place.