The virtual meeting was led by IOC AC Chair Kirsty Coventry, while a number of IOC directors were also on hand to provide updates and answer questions.
The main focus was the ongoing consultation process around Rule 50, with Professor Jan Orth invited on to the call to present the sports law and human rights perspective.
Other topics discussed included Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 preparations, safeguarding initiatives, and the actions of the IOC and IOC AC on the issue of the Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari.
On 16 September, I had the pleasure of chairing the IOC Athletes’ Commission’s latest virtual meeting. Following on from the IOC Executive Board meeting a week earlier, I provided some updates to the Commission members about athlete programmes, Tokyo 2020 preparations and new safeguarding initiatives, while we also had an important discussion around Rule 50.
But first I wanted to repeat how devastated we were to learn about the execution of our fellow athlete, Navid Afkari, the Iranian wrestler. The IOC had been working behind the scenes with our Commission’s full support to save Navid’s life, and IOC President Thomas Bach made a personal plea to the Supreme Leader and President of Iran to ask for mercy for him. We are very saddened that our efforts and those of the global athlete community didn’t achieve the desired result, and our thoughts and prayers are with Navid’s family and friends at this very difficult time.
Consultation on athlete demonstrations
For the Rule 50 discussion we invited Professor Jan Orth, who is a German judge and lectures sports law at the University of Cologne in Germany, on to the call. Professor Orth has an in-depth understanding of the Rule 50 topic, and it was hugely beneficial for us to hear his thoughts from a sports law and human rights angle, and to have him answer our questions.
Hearing these different views and perspectives is the goal of our consultation with the global athlete community around Rule 50, and we are continuing our engagement with athletes’ commissions around the world ahead of the launch of a quantitative and qualitative survey on Athlete365 in October.
Since June, we have met via conference call with athlete representatives from Canada, Australia, USA, Great Britain and Ireland, while IOC AC members have also joined calls with Continental Associations’ ACs and engaged directly with a wide range of individual athletes and athlete groups. We have seen that a lot of work is underway already, with surveys being conducted by a number of NOCs, and debates and webinars being initiated by others.
Tokyo 2020 preparations
Also on the call were IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell and IOC NOC Relations Director James Macleod, who provided us with updates on the preparations for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 in 2021. Overall, the Tokyo 2020 adapted planning is progressing well thanks to the hard work of all stakeholders and Games partners, and the “Here we Go” Task Force is preparing the delivery of the Games in different scenarios, working closely with all relevant authorities in Japan and the World Health Organization.
We heard that there is a collective commitment among NOCs and International Federations (IFs) to make the necessary adaptations to Games planning and operations in this unique environment, while always keeping a focus on athletes and the field of play.
A growing number of international events are also starting to take place, and the IOC is working with the IFs and event organisers to see what can be learnt and adapted for Tokyo 2020. The guiding principle is still that we should deliver the Olympic Games in a safe environment for all participants, and the same will apply for the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 and the Paralympic Games in both Tokyo and Beijing.
Safe Sport initiatives
Safeguarding has been an important focus for our Commission for some time now, and I was very happy to report that the IOC EB has approved a new set of initiatives to safeguard athletes from harassment and abuse in sport.
These include a webinar series starting in October for NOCs about safeguarding best practices, delivered by the IOC in four languages in collaboration with the Continental ACs; a safeguarding course launching in September 2021 available to IFs and NOCs to ensure that Safeguarding Officers have a minimum standard of training and are recognised with certification; and a digital awareness and education campaign set to launch on Athlete365 next month.
As ever, 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.
A growing number of international events are also starting to take place, and the IOC is working with the IFs and event organisers to see what can be learnt and adapted for Tokyo 2020.