The 10th edition of the European Olympic Committees (EOC) Athletes’ Forum concluded today with more than 60 athletes from across Europe leaving Dublin with a mandate to strengthen their networks, continue to push to have their voices heard within their National Olympic Committees (NOCs), and to communicate more frequently and more effectively among themselves and within their respective networks.
The forum was officially opened on Friday by EOC Vice President Niels Nygaard, who welcomed athletes to the Irish capital for three days of meetings hosted by the Olympic Federation of Ireland (OFI).
“Congratulations to the EOC Athletes’ Commission for the excellent job that you are doing since being elected in 2017,” said Nygaard. “At the halfway point of your mandate, you have made some excellent progress in ensuring that the athletes’ voice is being heard and is at the heart of the decisions of the Olympic Movement in Europe.”
OFI President Sarah Keane outlined the value that the Irish NOC puts on its Athletes’ Commission. “It is important that we as the NOC offer real support to our commission with a budget and a platform for their activities,” Keane said. “We are very proud of our commission, which is inspiring the next generation and learning from those that have gone before to ensure that there is a proper recognition of athletes within the movement.”
As part of the opening session, there was a special presentation of Irish Olympians through the years, led by 1956 Olympic 1500m champion and President of the Irish Olympians Association Ronnie Delaney, who said he was humbled to be part of the forum and reminded those in the room of how the Olympic values live on long after retirement from the sport: “Once an Olympian, always an Olympian,” he said.
The forum was led by the EOC Athletes’ Commission under the leadership of Gerd Kanter. It was funded by Olympic Solidarity and organised in conjunction with the IOC Athletes’ Commission. Kanter gave an update on the work of his Commission, proudly announcing that 47 of the 50 NOCs of Europe now have active Athletes’ Commissions. He also outlined the strategy of the Commission and the work done in 2019. The mandate of the current EOC Athletes’ Commission will run until 2021.
During the three days of the forum, athletes were encouraged to share their experiences and actively discuss how they could do more to help the athletes in their own counties and engage with the Athletes’ Commissions of both the EOC and IOC.
The IOC Athletes’ Commission delivered updates on the global athlete strategy and provided details of the tools and resources available to them through its platform Athlete365. Olympic Solidarity gave a comprehensive update on all opportunities available to NOCs to support athletes and their entourages, including access to funding that will be available from January 2020 for activities undertaken by each Athletes’ Commission.
The forum concluded with some key takeaways, including:
- the need for strategic planning with tangible goals and accountability;
- increased collaboration between athletes and their NOCs, in particular via contact with the NOC Athletes’ Commission communications person or other NOC point of contact;
- applying for the new NOC AC activity grants, which provide USD 10,000 to each NOC AC to support the work of their commissions and athletes locally;
- strengthening the network in Europe (for example, the EOC AC announced a system of country group liaisons); and
- use of the Athlete365 Network app to obtain and share information between EOC ACs and also for individual NOC ACs to make their own groups.