The IOC Athletes’ Commission is playing a key role in Sochi during the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, providing support for competing athletes if and when they need it, according to Commission Chair Claudia Bokel.
“We are the first point of contact for the athletes if they have any issues here,” she says. “We had a pretty busy week at the IOC Session [before the Games] representing athletes and speaking up on the rights of the athletes. So our main role now is to speak to as many athletes as we can and for them to know that the Athletes’ Commission is there to support them.”
As the link between the athletes and the IOC, the Commission members are involved in many key IOC activities, such as the process for evaluating Candidate Cities seeking to host the Olympic Games, the composition of the sports programme, the protection of clean athletes, and representing the athletes on the IOC’s Coordination Commissions that help to guide and advise the Games organisers as they prepare to host the Games.
For instance, it was the IOC Athletes’ Commission’s recommendation to the Sochi 2014 organisers to let the athletes march into the stadium at an early stage of the Opening Ceremony and thus give them the chance to enjoy the show from the beginning.
During the Games, Commission members are also taking the opportunity to show athletes some of the work they are doing to support them in their lives.
According to Bokel, the athletes in Sochi have been appreciative of the Commission’s efforts, including key initiatives such as the IOC Athlete Career Programme (ACP), which aims to facilitate education as well as job opportunities for athletes during and after their sporting careers. Athletes in Sochi can learn more about the ACP in the IOC spaces set up in all Olympic Villages and also use a customised app. “They like what we do as well,” she explains. “It is a great opportunity for us to show what we have done within the IOC Athletes' Commission, particularly on the field of career transition. We have created some web applications, some mobile device applications, for them to see what we have been doing and they picked it up pretty well so far.
“We don't want to distract them from their competitions but we also want them to think about life after sports and to pursue a career so they do not get into a ‘black hole’ afterwards.”
Bokel, who was re-elected as Commission Chair prior to the start of the Games, has also received positive feedback from the athletes on the Games themselves.
“They have been extremely happy so far,” she says. “I have spoken to quite a few athletes who enjoyed the Opening Ceremony very much and we saw it also on social media through our Olympic Hub – we saw comments on that. They love living in the Villages. The short distances between the Village and the competitions are also a great asset.”
During the Games, athletes will have the opportunity to vote for two of their peers to be elected to the IOC Athletes’ Commission, with the mandates of current members Rebecca Scott and Saku Koivu coming to an end after eight years.
Meanwhile, Bokel is looking forward to receiving more positive feedback from those competing in Sochi: “I hope it will continue that way, that the athletes will continue to have a good time,” she says. “I'm sure all of us will have great Games and see great sports here.”