The International Olympic Committee hosted in Lausanne, Switzerland, the biggest ever International Athletes Forum (IAF): 350 Athlete Representatives from 185 National Olympic Committees and 50 International Federations participated. Five Continental Athletes Commissions, the Commissions of all the Organising Committees of the upcoming Olympic Games were also present
“The International Athletes Forum was empowering, exciting and unifying,” said Kirsty Coventry, an Olympic gold medallist in swimming, serving as the Minister of Sports of Zimbabwe and IOC Athletes Commission Chair.
We had a very fruitful meeting,” said IOC Athletes Commission Vice Chair Danka Bartekova, a Slovak skeet shooter and Olympic bronze medallist, who led the discussions in the absence of Kirsty Coventry. “The IOC Athletes Commission will take the proposals to the IOC Executive Board, where we are directly represented.”
WBSC was represented by Maria Soto, Co-Chair of the Athletes Commission.
“We discussed very interesting topics,” commented Maria Soto through an e-mail “And we received some advice on how to improve our own Athletes Commission.”
The participants of the IAF underlined that, for the legitimacy of athlete representation by their peers, it is essential that the elections for Athletes Commissions should take place in every National Olympic Committee (NOC) and every International Federation. It was emphasised that, based on this election having a voice and a vote within the decision making bodies, this is the most powerful and legitimate form of athlete representation.
The athletes emphasised the need to continue and strengthen the solidarity funding model because it serves all athletes from all 206 National Olympic Committees and all Olympic sports.
In this context, the IOC and the various NOCs should continue to make the funding streams to all stakeholders even more transparent and communicate more clearly about their impact.
The same principle of transparency should apply to International Federations. In this context, the IOC should form a working group with the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) to develop a set of principles and guidelines in which an identified share of the Olympic funding would be dedicated to specific athlete support programmes including athlete representation. These principles and guidelines should be finalised and implemented for the next Olympic cycle, starting after the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Taking into consideration the need for the Athletes Commissions to conduct regular engagement activities with their fellow athletes, the International Athletes Forum recommends that the IOC Athletes Commission proposes to the IOC Executive Board that the IOC financially supports the Commissions of NOCs and Continental Associations of NOCs.
Following various requests for more support for athletes in their career transition from sport to business, the Athlete365 Business Accelerator was launched. It aims to support athletes with dual careers or who are transitioning from their athletic careers by helping them develop their business ideas by working with experts in the field. The announcement follows the signature of the Memorandum of Understanding signed on 6 October 2018, during the Olympism in Action Forum in Buenos Aires (Argentina), between the IOC and the Yunus Centre, chaired by Professor Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 2006. The Athlete365 Business Accelerator has been added to the programmes available to athletes through Olympic Solidarity.
The International Athletes Forum had many very detailed questions about the protection of the clean athletes and the fight against doping. The participants called on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the IOC and the Olympic Movement to ensure a level playing field in terms of international testing and to improve education, prevention measures, research as well as to enhance the support for athletes at all levels of the anti-doping system.
A full session was dedicated to mental health. The first draft of a toolkit being produced by the IOC Athletes Commission and the IOC Medical and Scientific Commission was discussed, and valuable feedback provided by the participants. The IOC is working on helping to raise more awareness around this topic.
Presentations on various IOC resources to protect and support the holistic well-being of athletes were given, such as the IOC Safeguarding Toolkit and initiatives on the prevention of competition manipulation and anti-corruption.
An IOC ambassador programme should be developed to inspire young people, promote the Olympic values and the power of sport in improving people’s lives around the world.
The IOC is to launch an Athlete365 app dedicated to athlete representatives: it should facilitate Athletes’ Commissions’ communication around the world, increasing the engagement and the exchanges among them.