9 July: IOC Athletes’ Commission leads global call to discuss athlete expression for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
On 9 July, the IOC Athletes’ Commission (AC) led its latest conference call with the global network of athlete representatives. In addition to providing some updates on COVID-19 and preparations for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the IOC AC initiated a discussion around the recent wave of demonstrations happening around the world, and the link to Rule 50 and athletes’ freedom of expression.
- More than 120 athlete representatives joined the call, which was led by IOC AC Vice-Chair Danka Bartekova.
- The main points on the agenda were COVID-19 and its impact on Tokyo 2020 preparations and qualification, and Rule 50.
- Over the coming months, the IOC AC will be running a consultation with the global athlete community on Rule 50 and opportunities to express your views at the Olympic Games.
Thank you to all of you who joined our latest global call on 9 July. We had more than 120 of you on the call representing International Federations (IFs), National Olympic Committees (NOCs), Continental Associations, WADA and the IPC, and I was very happy to be a part of such engaging discussions and to hear your views and feedback.
Before jumping into an update on Tokyo 2020 and a discussion around Rule 50, I announced, on behalf of the IOC Athletes’ Commission, that we are deeply saddened by the tragic death of Korean triathlete Choi Suk-hyeon. No athlete should ever suffer from any form of harassment or abuse, and it shows that more needs to be done to safeguard athletes from harassment and abuse in sport. We will be speaking with the Athletes’ Entourage Commission to identify how we can push organisations in the Olympic Movement to ensure they have robust processes to prevent harm to athletes, and ensure there are effective reporting mechanisms for those who need it. For the next conference call, we will invite our IOC Safeguarding Officers so that they can discuss their work and get feedback from you and the athlete community. You can find safeguarding resources on Athlete365, and athletes can report confidentially through our reporting hotline.
I also briefly gave some updates from our side, including on the success of our Athlete365 Webinar series, which has attracted over 1,000 participants for each webinar, and the announcement of the exciting new collaboration with Intel. This programme is providing the Athlete365 community with the best content, tools and services to support your journey to the Olympic Games and beyond, including LinkedIn Learning annual subscriptions, licences for six months’ free access to Headspace, and an exclusive Intel Mentor programme designed to help you with your career.
Rule 50 and athlete expression
Our main agenda item was a discussion around how athletes can express themselves at the Olympic Games and the link to Rule 50. Following the recent demonstrations in the United States and around the world, the IOC AC immediately met to discuss how we can address this topic. We all agreed that there was a need to be proactive, and our Commission presented a list of key points we would like to take up with the IOC Executive Board (EB). The EB has since given us its full support in the task of leading a global consultation with athletes.
We and the IOC are fully supportive of freedom of speech, and – at the same time – we want to respect other athletes on the field of play and athletes celebrating their special moment on the podium. This is highlighted in the Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration, and we are really happy that the Athletes’ Declaration Steering Committee will be supporting us in this consultation.
By the end of the summer, we will launch a survey to gain feedback directly from the wider athlete community – in addition to the work we have started with ACs – in which all athletes are invited to participate. We want your input and your help in extending the reach of the consultation. What ideas do you have as athletes and athlete representatives about how we can tackle any kind of discrimination? How can we give athletes a platform during the Games to be vocal about what’s important to them?
Just as a reminder, there are already multiple opportunities for you to express your views at the Olympic Games, including through press conferences, media interviews in the mixed zones in the Olympic venues and the Olympic Village, and on social media – while there are no restrictions on non-Olympic venues. But in addition to these opportunities, we are appealing for fresh ideas.
We are empowering the Athletes’ Commissions from around the world and International Federations to engage with their athletes as part of this process. To initiate this dialogue, we opened up the call to questions from the athlete representatives and heard great contributions from Panam Sports, and from the USA, Irish and Canadian ACs, which have already begun a consultation process with their athletes. It’s really motivating to see Commissions being so active around this issue, and we will be actively engaging with the athlete community network in this process.
Stay tuned to Athlete365 for more information about the athlete consultation process and timeline, and how you can have your say in our survey.
Tokyo 2020 updates
We also had a number of IOC staff on the call to provide the latest updates on COVID-19 and its impact on the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
First, IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell gave an update on the qualification system. The IOC has been working hard with IFs to make any necessary amendments to each qualification system, while respecting both the athletes who have already qualified and the established process. All of the qualification systems have now been reviewed in partnership with the IFs, and in consultation with NOCs, and have been approved by the IOC Qualification Task Force, which includes IOC AC Chair Kirsty Coventry.
IFs are still confirming calendars for 2021 subject to the changing landscape, and the IOC is urging IFs to be cautious in moving back to qualification events before there is equal access to training, travel and competition. Our dedicated page will direct you to the updated calendars and qualification systems for each sport.
We also received an update from Pierre Ducrey, Olympic Games Operations Director, on organisers’ preparations for the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Games. It was revealed that the IOC, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and other stakeholders have been working closely together and recently aligned on two aspects: the positioning of the Games, and the basic planning principles.
The focus will remain on the athletes, with no concessions to be made as regards the number of athletes participating or the sports contested. At the same time, organisers have agreed on some basic principles to guide the planning of the postponed Games. These include the health and safety of all participants; simplifying the Games wherever possible, so that the costs of postponement are as low as possible; and asking all delegations to look at reductions in their entourage numbers to allow for a smaller number of people on site.
It was explained that the IOC must be in a position to envisage the different scenarios in which the Games may have to be delivered next year, through a number of agreed counter-measures and actions. This will be done in close collaboration with Tokyo 2020 and the World Health Organization, and will become the key focus of organisers’ work once Tokyo 2020 reconfirms the contracts and use of the venues – which it is on course to do soon.
Please share these communications with your fellow athletes, and do get in touch if you have any questions or feedback by emailing us at Athlete365@olympic.org or by using the Athlete365 community app.