IOC Athletes’ Commission lead global call with over 150 athlete representatives on the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

The IOC Athletes’ Commission (AC) yesterday conducted a call with over 150 athlete representatives from around the globe. This call was set up in order to collect further feedback and answer your questions via your athlete representatives following the rescheduling of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 to 23 July 2021.

The IOC President and a number of IOC directors were present and responded to questions on qualification systems, heat mitigation, Olympic Solidarity, anti-doping and more.

  • Putting athletes’ and public health first, the decision for the new dates was taken at the earliest possible opportunity to allow athletes, NOCs, and IFs the maximum amount of time to prepare for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 in 2021.
  • All athletes and quota places already qualified will remain secured for the respective athletes and NOCs with the same principle that the NOCs will ultimately confirm the delegation of their respective teams. Qualification events and systems will be adapted with the IFs to confirm the process for the remaining places.
  • Various other topics covered included Olympic Solidarity funding, calendar adjustments to sports in 2021, heat mitigation at the Olympic Games, and the Olympic competition schedule.

Foreword by Kirsty Coventry

I would like to thank all of you for your contributions to the call with the global network of athletes’ representatives on Tuesday. As always, we are keen to hear everyone’s view and suggestions and ensure we continue to engage with and represent the views of athletes from around the world.

As you will have seen by now, the new dates for the Olympic Games are to be 23 July to 8 August 2021.

Following advice from the WHO in particular, it is believed to be safest to go with a summer Games. We do not currently know when athletes will be able to train and prepare fully, so a summer Games maximises the time available for athletes to prepare and for the staging of the remaining Olympic qualification events.

The IOC AC is delighted that the dates could be confirmed so quickly. This confirmation will give athletes the certainty that is needed to start their planning for 2021 and also allows you to concentrate on keeping yourselves and your families safe during this challenging time.

As Chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission, I was on all the calls with the IOC Executive Board in recent weeks to discuss this postponement and the new dates before joining athletes’ representatives to help answer your questions. I am also part of the Tokyo 2020 Coordination Commission and therefore will continue to represent athletes’ views and needs on all decisions that are needed for Games planning as we move forward.  

It was encouraging to hear during the conference call that the IOC AC’s continuous efforts to engage with the athlete community in a transparent and meaningful way and support athletes globally were overwhelmingly acknowledged and appreciated by so many athlete representatives.

At the same time, it was very motivating to hear that the principles the IOC AC follows in delivering its mission in all aspects of its work 365 days a year, including its contribution to the delivery of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, were emphasised and supported on the call. The importance of these principles was also even raised by some of athlete representatives on the call.

I would like to reiterate that we will continue to work along these principles in the future. These were the same principles which guided us as the IOC Athletes’ Commission and the IOC Executive Board through the decision-making process related to the postponement of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. I am proud that in all decision making I have the honour to represent your voice, the athletes’ voice.

We will continue to support you all during these very challenging times through:

  1. active communication with all athletes and athletes’ representatives of the 206 National Olympic Committees (NOCs), the International Federations (IFs) and the Continental Associations of NOCs in the future; and
  2. publish regular updates for you on Athlete365, hold conference calls and engage with you via email.

Thank you to all athletes who have been in touch over the last weeks – it is vitally important for us that we represent you and make your voice heard. Please continue to share with us any of your thoughts and ideas.

Once again, I urge you all to stay safe, to keep your family safe, and to reach out to us with any questions you may have.

Kind regards,

Kristy Coventry Signature




Kirsty Coventry


Qualification systems

We greatly appreciate the fact that all IFs have suspended their Olympic qualification events. This is important as we all recognise that athletes are facing extraordinary challenges with training and preparation, as well as their own personal circumstances. It has been agreed that no further qualification events should be scheduled unless it can be guaranteed that there is fair access and also fair and appropriate preparation for the competing athletes and teams.

We encourage you to collaborate with your IF. When re-scheduling the qualification events, athlete health and safety considerations are our guiding principles. With the postponement of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 until 2021, it has hopefully removed the pressure regarding the need to immediately reschedule the remaining qualification events, and we should collectively take the necessary time and be prudent in the rescheduling of these events.

Of course, 57 per cent of the quota places at the Games have been filled already, and those who have qualified will keep their place with the same principle that the NOCs will ultimately confirm the delegation of their respective teams. In some sports, age limits may be reached and surpassed by certain athletes. We will work on an individual basis with IFs to adapt accordingly and clarify this as soon as possible.

The IOC team is now working closely with IFs to finalise the necessary adaptations to the Tokyo 2020 qualification systems as a result of the new dates. These will follow the original principles of each sport and discipline-specific system. The aim is to complete them in the coming weeks.

We are aware that in the summer of 2021 there are already a number of events scheduled to take place across various sports.

We are in a number of active discussions with multiple IFs and NOCs who have been great to work with so far, with the World Athletics Championships an example of one such event which has been rescheduled.

There is also a dedicated page on Athlete365 with links to all IF websites so you can find out more.

Olympic Solidarity funding

Given that the Games have been postponed by 12 months, it has raised the question of whether Olympic Solidarity funding will continue across numerous programmes.

For Tokyo-related support, we can confirm that the Olympic Solidarity scholarships will continue into 2021. There are currently 1,600 athlete scholarship-holders across 185 NOCs. Olympic Solidarity will also extend into 2021 the Refugee Athlete Scholarships, Team Support Grants and the Olympic Games Subsidies. As a reminder, the NOC Athletes’ Commission Activity grant announced in 2019 will still be available throughout 2020.

Heat mitigation

The heat countermeasures agreed and tested between the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the IOC and the International Federations (IFs) to protect athletes from heat and adverse weather conditions will be fully replicated in 2021.

With another summer to go before the Games take place, we will use this as an opportunity to test and improve our heat and adverse weather measures in order to have a system which is increasingly safe and beneficial to all athletes and spectators.

In addition to the information already on Athlete365 for athletes to help beat the heat, we will also publish the heat mitigation measures that will be taken during the Games.


Mission orders for testing have been postponed or cancelled in many countries due to the restricted movement and interaction measures that have been put in place by national governments to control the spread of COVID-19. The IOC’s priority to protect everyone’s health and help to address the spread of COVID-19 also applies to all those involved in the anti-doping programmes around the world. 

A number of measures in the fight against doping have and will continue to be taken to protect clean athletes and ensure that the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and the qualifying events will be held in the best possible conditions.

  1. The IOC already has in place a Pre-Games Expert Group administered by the International Testing Agency (ITA) involving anti-doping experts from International Federations (IFs) and National Anti-Doping Organizations (NADOs), in consultation with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which will help mitigate the impact of this reduction in testing. This Expert Group will issue new recommendations for testing potential Olympic athletes in light of the confirmed dates of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and will then closely monitor the completion of the testing recommendations. WADA are monitoring testing programmes around the world – including in the given context – and will ensure that the system can return to full power as quickly as possible once the various restrictions are lifted. 
  2. Following the announcement by the IOC President in November 2019, pre-Games samples will be stored for 10 years so that if new analytical methods become available, they can be used in the future. The success of the reanalysis of Beijing 2008 and London 2012 samples provides an extra deterrent as it shows that athletes who use prohibited substances during this period of reduced testing may still be caught in the future. WADA also encourages Anti-Doping Organizations (ADOs) – NADOs and IFs – to prioritise the storage of samples taken after the COVID-19 pandemic. WADA also encourages ADOs to gather intelligence during this period that can be used in the future.
  3. The Pre-Games Expert Group will use this intelligence to adjust accordingly its test distribution plan in the lead-up to the Games; and then the ITA at the Games themselves. 
  4. Finally, the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) will continue to be an important programme in the coming weeks and months as it will allow ADOs to identify any abnormal result in athletes’ tests over a period of time even if there are currently gaps in the planned testing.

Please also see WADA ADO Guidance and Athlete Q&A

Safety at the Games

It is vital to remember that the Games are set to go ahead with the support of WHO. Postponing the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 to the summer of 2021 provides more than a year to develop treatments and to allow effective healthcare to be in place by the time of the Games.

The safety and health of athletes and everyone involved has always been and will continue to be our priority. What has been made clear is that the Games will only be held in a safe environment for both you and everyone involved.

WHO has issued advice on everything from testing, quarantining, tracing and so on in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we have an All Partner Task Force with WHO, Tokyo 2020 and the Japanese health authorities focused on the mitigation measures that will be needed.

Competition schedule at the Games

The existing Tokyo 2020 competition schedule will be used as the basis for the Games next year. There are multiple considerations to account for, including the availability of venues, but, where possible, the competition schedule will remain the same.

Ongoing communication

As part of our ongoing efforts to keep you informed and as up-to-date as possible on the impact of COVID-19, we will continue to publish the latest information and advice for athletes here.

It is crucial that you remain up-to-date with credible information directly from WHO, which you can find on its website here.

We are counting on your support and help to ensure that our fellow athletes receive accurate and credible information. Please share these communications with your fellow athletes and do get in touch if you have any questions or feedback, by emailing us at or by using the Athlete365 community app.