Some 350 athlete representatives from 185 National Olympic Committees (NOCs), 50 International Federations (IFs), five continental Athletes Commissions (ACs), the ACs of all the Organising Committees of the upcoming Olympic Games, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the World Olympians Association (WOA) met over the past three days in Lausanne for the 9th edition of the International Athletes’ Forum (IAF). It was the biggest ever gathering of official athlete representatives, to which athletes from all 206 NOCs were invited. Also attending was IOC President Thomas Bach, Olympic Champion in fencing in Montreal 1976 and member of the first IOC Athletes’ Commission in 1981.
“This IAF was empowering, exciting and unifying,” highlighted Kirsty Coventry, IOC AC Chair, who is about to give birth to her first child, but joined the Forum online.
“We had a very fruitful meeting,” said IOC AC Vice Chair Danka Bartekova, 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. The IOC President has told me in our discussions during the Forum that he will fully support our recommendations. We look forward to their implementation, which will ensure that the support for athletes at all levels is improved even further and the solidarity model of the Olympic Games is reinforced for the benefit of all athletes.”
The discussions produced the following recommendations from the IAF, which were unanimously supported in a vote during in the closing session:
1. To strengthen athletes’ representation:
– The participants of the IAF underlined that, for the legitimacy of athlete representation by their peers, it is essential that the elections for ACs should take place in every NOC and every IF, as is done at the Olympic Games for the IOC AC. 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.
2. To strengthen the solidarity funding model:
– The athletes emphasised the need to continue and strengthen the solidarity funding model because it serves all athletes from all 206 NOCs and all Olympic sports. It was noted that the athletes participate in the Olympic Games as a team of their NOC. Therefore, the financial support from the IOC should go to the Olympic team, i.e. the NOC.
– In this context, the IOC and NOCs should continue to make the funding streams to all stakeholders even more transparent and communicate more clearly about their impact, in order to create a reference point for the athletes to follow up on the implementation of the IOC programmes and to monitor them more closely.
– The same principle of transparency should apply to IFs. 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.
3. To strengthen direct financial support for NOC Athletes’ Commissions:
– Taking into consideration the need for the ACs to conduct regular engagement activities with their fellow athletes, the IAF recommends that the IOC AC proposes to the IOC Executive Board (EB) that the IOC financially supports the ACs of NOCs and Continental Associations of NOCs. The proposal would be for subsidies of up to USD 10,000 per commission, per year, which could be available on application to the NOCs and eventually could add up to a support programme of about USD 10 million per Olympiad. The IOC President has committed to supporting this proposal when discussed by the IOC EB.
4. To strengthen the support for career transition:
– 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.
5. To strengthen the protection of clean athletes and the fight against doping:
– The IAF 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.
– The IAF called on WADA, governments, the NOCs, the IFs and the IOC to find ways to better target the enablers of doping, such as doctors, medical staff, coaches and officials, and to strongly sanction them in the most effective ways.
6. To focus on athletes’ mental health:
– 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.
7. Support for the Athletes’ Declaration:
– The Athletes’ Right and Responsibilities Declaration was discussed and fully supported with a practical “how to” session, focusing on the implementation of the Athletes’ Declaration across all Olympic Movement stakeholders.
– The participants pledged to work with their respective sporting organisations to adopt and implement the document.
8. To invite athletes to be ambassadors for the Olympic Movement:
– 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.
9. To foster engagement and communication among the Athletes’ Commissions’ network:
– 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.
– The IOC to invite all athletes’ commission members from all NOCs, IFs, OCOGs and from all Olympic Movement stakeholders to every edition of the IAF.
Tomorrow, 15 April 2019, the IAF will be held together with the World Olympians Forum (WOF). The WOF will kick off officially on the following day and will end on 17 April. This joint session is part of a wider commitment between the World Olympians Association (WOA) and the IOC Athletes’ Commission to collaborate and complement each other in ensuring athletes and Olympians are constantly supported by the IOC and the Olympic Movement at all stages of their lives.