Over the past two days, the 11th International Athletes’ Forum (IAF) brought together over 400 athlete representatives in Lausanne to discuss the most important issues for athletes across the Olympic Movement. The two days of discussion and debate resulted in a series of outcomes, announced by the IOC Athletes’ Commission (AC) today.
AC members from 181 National Olympic Committees (NOCs), 54 International Federations (IFs), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), Organising Committees for the upcoming Olympic Games (OCOGs) and Continental Associations, as well as members of the Athletes’ Declaration Steering Committee and representatives from the World Olympians Association (WOA), were present in Lausanne for the two days.
The IAF ended with an in-depth, two-hour Q&A session with the IOC President, Thomas Bach. In typical IAF fashion, the IOC President took to the stage and engaged directly with the athlete representatives to answer their questions – no topics were off limits. Safe sport, the upcoming Olympic Games Paris 2024, the participation of individual neutral athletes with a Russian or Belarussian passport in international competitions during the qualification period, and the mission of the Olympic Games to unite the world in peaceful competition and contribute to peace and understanding were all part of the discussion.
Other topics raised and addressed by the IOC President were: the situation of athletes from countries and regions affected by the too many wars and conflicts around the world; the digitalisation of sport, with Artificial Intelligence on the rise; the growing popularity of esports; the inclusion of AC chairs in the NOC delegations at the Olympic Games; the inclusion of new sports in the Olympic programme; cooperation with the Deaflympics; the length of the stay of athletes in the Olympic Village; the support of the IOC for the Olympic Community of Ukraine; the Youth Olympic Games Dakar 2026 as an event for the entire African continent; and safeguarding and protection for athletes.
“You can all look forward to the Olympic Games Paris 2024, which will be the Games of a new era,” the IOC President said. “They will the first Olympic and Paralympic Games to be planned and delivered in line with the reforms of our Olympic Agenda. They will be sustainable, urban, inclusive and youthful Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Olympic Games Paris 2024 will also be the first-ever Olympic Games with gender parity. The IOC has allocated exactly the same number of quota places to female and male athletes.”
Summarising the Forum, IOC AC Chair Emma Terho said: “Over the past two days, we’ve covered topics ranging from what it takes to build an effective AC to what it means to be an Olympian. We’ve looked ahead to Paris 2024, Milano Cortina 2026 and LA2028, highlighting the huge number of programmes and initiatives in place to support athletes on their journeys. We’ve discussed how to support a safe space for us to speak openly about the issues that matter most to us as athletes and athlete representatives.”
She continued: “On a personal note, I’ve been touched by the honesty and courage so many of you have displayed during these sessions, particularly in our discussion on neutral athletes. This remains a difficult topic, but I come away from this Forum inspired and with very valuable feedback.”
The key points that emerged from the various discussions and sessions in three areas were:
- Olympic Games-related initiatives:
- “Road to Paris” Pilot Project – an initiative giving more flexibility to sporting good brands to promote their sponsored athletes in the run-up to and at the Paris Games.
- Social Media Guidelines – innovative opportunities for athletes during Games time to raise their profile by sharing their Olympic journey with their fans. The guidelines will be released in the next few weeks.
- Professional experience for athlete representatives – NOCs were encouraged to have the Chair or a member of their AC as part of their delegation to support them during the Games, learn about the work of other NOCs and benefit from this operational experience as an asset for their career transition.
- Support for the network of Athletes’ Commissions:
- Administrative Support to Athletes’ Commissions – Building on the dedicated support to ACs that the continental associations are already providing, NOCs and IFs are encouraged to provide their ACs with administrative support, to support the running of the commissions and assist in the delivery of athlete-centred activities.
- Safe Sport – Athletes’ Commission members to be safe sport ambassadors, including participation in the Safeguarding Officer in Sport programme, and put into practice the important learnings they received during the dedicated safeguarding workshop.
- Athlete rights, clean sport and integrity – It was announced that new implementation guidance will be launched soon to support the Olympic Movement stakeholders in the important work of adopting and implementing the Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration in their respective organisations.
- Support for athletes directly:
- Olympic Movement funding model – Participants were presented with the Olympic Movement funding model and were informed about the athlete support programmes that exist for all athletes globally through the IOC, NOCs and IFs as a result of the Olympic Solidarity model. The IOC AC will look into ways to further promote and explain the details of Rule 40 and the impact for athletes during the Olympic Games.
- Mental health
- A dedicated mental health helpline will be available for all Paris 2024 Olympians and Paralympians. Athletes competing in the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games will then have access to the fully confidential and 24/7 Mental Health Helpline (in 70 languages) for the entire Olympiad (i.e. the four-year period).
- Additionally, it was announced that athletes will be able to benefit from one-year premium subscriptions to a leading mindfulness app to improve their sleep, enhance focus, alleviate anxious thoughts or for any other reasons. This offer will be launched on Athlete365 on 10 October, to coincide with World Mental Health Day.
- OBS opportunities – In collaboration with Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS), two OBS training programmes will be taking place from September to November. This initiative provides training for Olympians and Paralympians, preparing them for career opportunities during the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
- Athlete365 app – Athlete representatives gave their feedback on the development of the Athlete365 app. This will be available in time for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games to facilitate easier access to all information and resources that are available for athletes and their entourage before, during and after the Games.
The plenary sessions from the IAF 2023 are now available to watch on the IOC Media YouTube channel in five languages.