International Athlete’s Forum recommendations: one year on

The 9th International Athletes’ Forum, held in Lausanne in April 2019, saw the largest ever gathering of athlete representatives, who met to produce nine concrete recommendations aimed at empowering the athletes’ voice across the Olympic Movement. Twelve months on, we take a look at the progress made on each of the nine recommendations and the work being done to achieve them.  

  • Nine recommendations to empower athletes at all levels globally were formalised following the 2019 International Athletes’ Forum. 
  • One year on from the Forum, we look at the work that has been done toward these goals. 
  • Highlights include a huge increase in funding for athletes’ commissions worldwide, and greater support for athletes regarding well-being and mental health. 

Kirsty Coventry, Chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission:

“We listened to the collective voice of athlete representatives at the International Athletes’ Forum in 2019 and these nine recommendations have shaped the work of the IOC Athletes’ Commission over the last year. We truly believe that athletes are at the heart of the Olympic Movement and are key to shaping the future of world sport, and these updates on each recommendation below show how we have worked to accomplish this.”

1. To strengthen athletesrepresentation

The IOC AC Strategy focuses on all the key areas of strengthening athlete engagement and empowering athlete representatives. In this respect, the IOC and IOC Athletes Commission (AC) are working directly with Olympic Movement stakeholders to empower ACs globallyIn the past 12 months, the IOC AC has held over 10 calls with the global network of ACs to gather feedback on a number of topics, most recently the impact of COVID-19 and the postponement of Tokyo 2020. This global network of athlete representatives has been considerably strengthened through this increased engagement and has helped the IOC AC capture more comprehensive and dynamic feedback on the matters most important to athletes.  

We have also recently started an extensive mapping process of the athletes commissions across the Olympic MovementIn order to better understand the current needs of athletes commissions and further improve the resources and support we provide, we have sent a self-reporting tool to all NOCs and IFs about their athletes commissions. This questionnaire is the main platform for NOC and IF ACs to directly provide information on the current status of their commission in regard to membership, elections and engagement. This survey will provide us with valuable information for our collaboration with athletes and athletes commissionsand help us to improve the delivery of our services. 

Some of the more vulnerable athlete groups in the global community have been supported, such as in Boxing following the suspension of AIBA’s recognition by the IOC. Athlete365 Boxing was launched as well as In Your Corner, the Boxing-exclusive portal on the road to Tokyo. Even in the absence of an IF,  an Athlete Ambassadors Groupwas created to liaise with boxers and promote the athletes’ voice.  

2. To strengthen the solidarity funding model

A working group that includes IOC AC Chair Kirsty Coventry has been established to lead this important work, which aims to ensure that the Olympic funding model is better understood and its impact is communicated more clearly to athletes. The working group is collaborating closely with selected IFs and NOCs in a pilot project to communicate how athletes are supported directly and indirectly.  

3. To strengthen direct financial support for NOC AthletesCommissions 

Since January 2020, yearly grants worth USD 10,000 have been available to all NOCs to support the activities of their AC, or to set one up. Funded by Olympic Solidarity, this could eventually add up to a support programme of about USD 10 million per Olympiad. Applications have been received from every continent, and the projects supported so far include awareness and education workshops for athletes, and the organisation of national athletes forums.  

As an example, the NOC of Ukraine wasted no time in applying for funding for its NOC AC and already this year has organised a series of webinars for its athletes on topics such as goal setting, self-improvement and social media tips. For the full story, see here 

For more information about the NOC AC activity grants and how to apply, click here.  

4. To strengthen the support for career transition

Athlete365 has increased the number of resources available to you since the Forum, with more than 40 career-focused articles generating around 80,000 views, and the exciting launch of the Athlete365 Business Accelerator programmeLast year, more than 1,000 athletes  including 230 Olympians  engaged with the pilot year of the free online course, with successful candidates going on to attend expert-led, in-person workshops held across three continents, and 11 Olympians receiving a personal mentor to help launch their projects 

Elsewhere, 43 Athlete365 Career+ Outreach Workshops were delivered by 27 NOCs and two IFs in 2019reaching 1,693 athletes  including 300 athletes during a pilot Athlete365 Career+ booth activation at the ANOCA Beach Games in Cape Verde in June 2019. 

Additionally, the new partnership between the IOC and Airbnb was signed in November 2019. As part of this partnership, the initiative of the Olympian and Paralympian Experiences was launched with the purpose of empowering Olympians and Paralympians to share their passion, in line with their own schedule, and providing them with some revenues in the process. This programme was developed based on the direct feedback received during the Forum through a survey as well as the dedicated focused group sessions with athletes. Alongside this programme, Airbnb will be supporting athletes to benefit from direct support for their accommodation needs. For more information on the Airbnb Olympian Experiences and to register your interest, visit Athlete365 

5. To strengthen the protection of clean athletes and the fight against doping

Participants at the2019 Forum called on the IOC, WADA and Olympic Movement stakeholders to ensure a level playing field in terms of international testing and to improve education, prevention measures and research  as well as to strongly sanction athletes and entourage members in the most effective ways.

Since then, the IOC Executive Board has approved a budget of up to USD 5 million, spread over 10 years, to be allocated to a comprehensive long-term storage programme managed by the International Testing Agency (ITA). The programme will see the storage of up to 10 years of samples collected by IFs and National Anti-Doping Organisations ahead of Tokyo 2020. Potentially as many as 22,000 samples could be kept within this programme. 

6. To focus on athletesmental health

Mental health has been a key focus for Athlete365 since the ForumIn addition to the dedicated well-being content, World Mental Health Day on 10 October 2019 was marked with an expert-led videosupportive advice articles and a bespoke social media campaign. An IOC Mental Health Working Group has been set up to bring together research on the subject and set up athlete tools and services, with IOC AC member Abhinav Bindra serving as your athlete representative.

Expert-led video that acted as the centre piece for the Athlete365 World Mental Health Day campaign

A variety of bespoke content was developed for athletes during the COVID-19 crisis to provide support given the new challenges experienced by athletes around the world, including tips, tricks and webinars led by international experts.  

7. Support for the AthletesDeclaration

Athlete representatives are continuously working with their respective organisations to support the implementation of the Athletes Rights and Responsibilities Declaration. The number of sports organisations that are adopting or endorsing the Declaration is increasing all the timeand includes ANOC and ASOIF as well as the IFs for Archery, Bobsleigh and Skeleton, Karate, Luge, Rowing, Skiing and Sport Climbing. The 20-person Steering Committee made up of athlete representatives, a lawyer, a medic and marketing professionals will, over the next 18 months, focus on:  

  • Developing athlete agreement guidelines to support organisations and athletes in producing such documents;  
  • Educating and informing Olympic Movement stakeholders about the Athletes Declaration; 
  • Developing best practice examples to add to an online library of resources already available on Athlete365. 

8. To invite athletes to be ambassadors for the Olympic Movement

The Athletes Role Model (ARM) programme continues to be a success by engaging with athletes and the general public. The Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020 saw 26 athletes chosen to be ARMs by their respective IFsfeaturing many legendary names from the world of sport, including Olympic and world champions. The ARMs engaged and shared their experiences with the young athletes in the Youth Olympic Village, at training and competition venues, and during a series of educational activities and workshops. These activities focused on a range of areas, including Olympic Solidarity, skills development, career management, injury prevention and integrity.

The general public and local young people were also able to meet and engage with the ARMs through sports presentations during the competitions, and through sports initiation sessions that took place at competition venues and in the centre of Lausanne. 

A large number of Olympians and athletes have been engaged in different programmes in the past 12 months, including the opening of Olympic House in June 2019 where more than 40 Olympic medallists were invited to Lausanne for the ceremony. During this event, these iconic athletes engaged in different activities with some of the local sports clubs in the Lausanne area to inspire the youth.  

Additionally, many athletes have participated in the say #StayStrong #StayHealthy campaign, which aims to leverage the power of sport to inspire local communities in the difficult time of the COVID-19 pandemic 

9. To foster engagement and communication among the AC network

The Athlete365 Community App was launched directly after the Forum, providing a dedicated space for athlete representatives to share ideas, knowledge and resources, and now has more than 650 users. Tools such as the Athlete365 Community Appcalls with athlete representatives worldwide and surveys sent to athletes’ commissions have helped gather and shape the athletes’ viewpoint on a range of topics over the last year, and we are very grateful for the networks level of engagement.  

Athlete feedback captured through all of these mechanisms has facilitated the IOC AC to accurately and confidently express the athletes voice during the making of key decisions affecting athletes, with the most recent example being the impact that coronavirus was having on athletes in the leadup to Tokyo 2020. Throughout 2019, conference calls and consultations were held with athletes to discuss the most pressing athlete issues, including Rule 40, Rule 50 and inclusion and non-discrimination based on gender identity. The global network of athlete representatives has never been stronger and better connected.   

Continental Athletes’ Forums, funded by Olympic Solidarity, have also significantly helped bring athlete representatives together on a regional levelThe most recent of which was the European Olympic Committees, which held their athletes’ forum in December 2019, with specific focus given to empowerment, communication and discussion on how more could be done to help the athletes in their own respective countries. 

EOC Athletes’ Forum, Dublin – December 2019

The 10th International Athletes’ Forum will take place in Lausanne in 2021