The second day of the Forum ended with nine key recommendations designed to strengthen athlete representation in the Olympic Movement.
This included the recommendation that up to USD $10 million in direct funding per Olympiad be provided to Continental and NOC athletes’ commissions.
Day two also featured a ground-breaking panel discussion on athlete mental health, and a Q&A session with President Bach.
After two days of constructive dialogue and lively debate, the record-breaking 2019 International Athletes’ Forum closed with nine key recommendations designed to strengthen athlete representation in the Olympic Movement.
The headline recommendation pledged that up to USD $10 million in direct funding will be provided to support the athletes’ commissions (ACs) of National Olympic Committees (NOC) and Continental Associations, subject to the approval of the IOC Executive Board. The proposal would be for subsidies of up to USD $10,000 per commission per year, which could available on application to the NOCs.
“The IOC President has told me in our discussions during the Forum that he will fully support our recommendations,” said IOC AC Vice-Chair Danka Bartekova. “We look forward to their implementation, which will ensure that the support for athletes at all levels is improved even further and the solidarity model of the Olympic Games is reinforced for the benefit of all athletes.”
Other key recommendations included the launch of a new Athlete365 app to foster engagement and communication among the global network of ACs, and a call for more athlete oversight in the distribution of Olympic Solidarity funding among NOC. This was a direct outcome of a lively discussion on the subject of transparency with IOC President Thomas Bach, who also addressed anti-doping and the question of athlete unions in a Q&A session that lasted more than two hours.
Ground-breaking discussion on athlete mental health
Earlier, the focus was on protecting athletes, with a panel discussion on the hugely topical and important theme of athlete mental health. Joining medical professionals Dr Richard Budgett and Dr Vincent Goutterbarge on the stage was Gracie Gold, the Olympic medal-winning figure skater, who recently revealed how a crippling combination of depression, anxiety and an eating disorder thwarted her ambition to compete at PyeongChang 2018.
“Social media is a blessing and a curse,” said Gracie as she highlighted how the rise of technology has made things increasingly difficult for the current generation of athletes. “On Instagram, we have a different persona – it’s like a perfect version of ourselves. And I found that very difficult to live up to, especially combined with the other pressures of being an elite athlete.
“At first I didn’t want to come out about it because of the stigma, which made me feel like I was the only one who wasn’t strong enough,” she added of her decision to tell her story in the media earlier this year. “But I got hundreds and hundreds of responses from athletes at all levels and in all sports, saying ‘me too’.”
During the session, it was announced that the IOC Medical and Scientific Commission has adopted an evidence-based consensus statement on mental health in elite athletes, which will be published in May.
Athlete rights and responsibilities
There were also some key announcements made during the morning session, with the launch of the IOC Ambassador Programme, a new initiative that will equip athletes with the tools to communicate the Olympic values and promote change in their own communities.
It was presented passionately by two of the first ambassadors – decorated footballer Karina LeBlanc, and Olympic medal-winning luger Chris Mazdzer, who plans to use the new role as a platform to raise awareness about climate change to a wider audience.
“As an athlete, I have a higher carbon footprint than the average human,” he explained. “This programme will allow me to work with the IOC and experts, so that we can engage athletes and IFs, drive communication and inspire change.”
And Sarah Walker, IOC AC member and chair of the Steering Committee for the Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration, presented an update on that Declaration, which was launched at the 2017 Forum.
“I am proud that so many athletes around the world have actively contributed to shaping it,” she said. “We are committed to encouraging on-going dialogue as the Athletes’ Declaration is a living document which will have updates and revised editions to ensure its continued relevance and effectiveness.”
Athlete representatives had the opportunity to practically discuss how best to implement the Declaration in their own organisations during focused breakout sessions, with Lenka Wech providing a case study of how World Rowing’s AC had successfully persuaded the World Rowing Council to adopt it.
To watch all the key discussions on day two, including the session on athlete mental health, click here. Day three will be a joint day with the World Olympians Association, with a focus on collaborating to further strengthen communication and athlete representation worldwide.