Nearly 2,000 athletes’ commission members registered to participate virtually in the 10th International Athletes’ Forum, the largest-ever athlete representative event, which ran from 26 to 27 May.
Athletes’ commission members from 199 National Olympic Committees (NOCs), all summer and winter Olympic sports federations, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), all Organising Committees for the Olympic Games (OCOGs) and NOC Continental Associations, as well as representatives from the World Olympians Association (WOA) and members of various National Olympians Associations, attended the virtual event.
Over the two-day event, athlete representatives joined together online to discuss a range of important topics. Athlete well-being and support were the key focus on day one, with contributions on the themes of mental health and safeguarding.
Updates and discussions on the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 were the highlights of the second day, in addition to a dedicated Q&A session with IOC President Thomas Bach.
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
During the sessions on the second day, many athletes shared their excitement about and confidence in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Reflecting the successful delivery of the test events held in the past few months, athletes also expressed their commitment to respecting the measures outlined in the Playbooks in order to deliver safe Olympic Games for all participants and all the Japanese people.
Jessica Fox (Australia, canoe slalom), said: “These last 12 months have been really challenging for athletes all over the world. We’ve all had to adapt and had our preparations disrupted in some way.
“The important thing has always been detaching myself from the idea of an ideal preparation and really being set on one thing and being able to be fluid and adaptable. We’ve had to make the most of the restrictions here and not being able to travel overseas for competitions. But I’m really looking forward to finally getting over there. There’s been great communication from the IOC, and I have full confidence in everyone at the Tokyo Organising Committee to put on safe Olympic Games.”
Tamás Tóth (Hungary, triathlon), World Triathlon Athletes’ Committee (AC) Chair, reported: “Two weeks ago, we successfully delivered our first bubble system in Yokohama, which was our first Olympic qualification race this year. Over 117 elite athletes competed there, and I would like to reassure all of my fellow Olympians who are preparing for Tokyo about the service from the IOC, and from the host nation. From the moment that you arrive at the airport you’re guided to your hotel, and the professionalism at the training venues was so amazing that I’m super confident about how it’ll be done in Tokyo. The Japanese perfection was there and I’m really looking forward to the Games.”
Heather Daly-Donofrio, International Golf Federation AC Chair, said, “Golf was the first of the major professional sports to come back, and we’ve been holding tournaments around the world – Europe, Asia, Middle East, the Americas – and, albeit a smaller scale than the Olympics, we’ve been able to cross these borders and continents safely and successfully not just for the athletes, but also for the communities and the countries in which we’ve played. Everything I’ve read coming out of the IOC and the playbooks and heard today, I’m just super confident that the IOC and Tokyo will deliver the same for the Olympic Games.”
Additionally, the participants highlighted the importance of their role in actively sharing information with their fellow athletes to ensure all athletes have the latest information and a clear understanding of the arrangements in place in Tokyo.
In the lead-up to the two live days of the Forum, dedicated breakout sessions were held for athletes’ commissions from each of the five continents to discuss effective athlete representation and empowerment, in addition to breakout sessions focused on anti-doping and the Olympic Agenda 2020+5 recommendations.
Collectively, through the various panel discussions, Q&A sessions and breakout sessions, the athlete representatives identified the areas that require the most attention in order to empower their athletes’ commission to effectively and actively represent the voice of athletes.
Fostering athletes’ rights and responsibilities
In line with the Olympic Agenda 2020+5 recommendations, the following points were reinforced/highlighted by the participants of the 10th International Athletes’ Forum.
– The IOC to strengthen its effort to ensure that all NOCs and IFs support their ACs to be effective in their role as athlete representatives.
– All IFs and NOCs to adopt and implement the Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration.
– All NOCs and IFs to make their funding streams transparent to all stakeholders and communicate clearly on the various direct and indirect support they offer to athletes.
– The IOC Athletes’ Commission, together with the mental health working group, to develop training for ACs to prepare them as they aim to better support and guide athletes in their time of need.
Kirsty Coventry, IOC Athletes’ Commission Chair, concluded: “Together, we can make a huge difference for our athletes. We need to know that we are #StrongerTogether. We will achieve more through meaningful contribution and dialogue with our entire athlete community and stakeholders across the [Olympic] Movement.
“As we know, the world is ever changing, which means athletes’ needs are changing – this is what inspired Olympic Agenda 2020. Through the launch of the Olympic Agenda 2020+5, the athlete recommendations will address this changing landscape through a number of concrete and meaningful actions. Recently, we have seen the rise of some universal needs, and many of these trends have been accelerated by COVID-19. As challenging as the circumstances may appear right now, if we draw the right lessons, we can seize the opportunities that these challenges offer us.”
The International Olympic Committee is a not-for-profit, civil, non-governmental, international organisation made up of volunteers which is committed to building a better world through sport. It redistributes more than 90 per cent of its income to the wider sporting movement, which means that every day the equivalent of USD 3.4 million goes to help athletes and sports organisations at all levels around the world.