The IOC AC continued to be fully involved in the IOC decision-making process and kept the global athlete community regularly engaged via Athlete365.
The IOC extended into 2021 the Olympic Solidarity programmes for Tokyo 2020, increasing the budget by USD 25.3 million and continuing to support 1,500 athletes.
Tailored content and a number of resources and services were provided throughout the year to empower athletes in navigating the unique set of challenges.
2020 was a truly extraordinary year.
It began with the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020, an incredible celebration of winter sport that saw members of your IOC Athletes’ Commission engage with the young athletes around the venues, at medal ceremonies, and in “Chat with Champions” sessions and educational activities at the Youth Olympic Villages.
Two months later, our world turned upside-down as the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic brought sport to a halt and resulted in the postponement of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 to 2021. This brought huge challenges to athletes all over the world – including access to training, ability to travel to competitions, impacts on qualification processes and mental health challenges, to name just a few.
I’M ALSO PROUD OF HOW ATHLETE365 HAS SUPPORTED YOU EVERY STEP OF THE WAY, LAUNCHING A NUMBER OF IMPACTFUL PROGRAMMES TO HELP YOU MANAGE YOUR PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH DURING THIS HUGELY DIFFICULT YEAR.
But one of the best attributes possessed by athletes is our adaptability, and we all witnessed how our athlete community responded by spreading positive messages, promoting safe behaviours, and encouraging people to get active by demonstrating innovative approaches to training on social media as part of the IOC’s #StayActive, #StayStrong, #StayHealthy campaign. I’m also proud of how the IOC and IOC AC supported the athlete community every step of the way, launching a number of impactful programmes to empower you to manage your physical and mental health during this hugely difficult year.
With the IOC working closely with all the relevant authorities and the Organising Committee on a set of countermeasures to protect the health of all Tokyo 2020 participants, and the positive developments with regard to a COVID-19 vaccine and rapid testing, we continue to be fully focused on preparing a safe Olympic Games for all participants, in particular the athletes.
There is a huge amount of work being done by all stakeholders to deliver the Games safely. Our Commission members and I have represented the IOC AC in all relevant meetings to support the collective effort by all stakeholders to ensure that athlete health and welfare remain at the centre of every decision.
As we look forward, it is also important to look back on some of the key milestones of 2020, which has seen our community emerge stronger and more united after the challenges we have collectively faced.
Engagement with the Global Network of Athletes’ Commissions
The athletes’ voice has been represented in all IOC decisions taken this year, including the postponement of Tokyo 2020. Empowering the ever-more active global network of athletes’ commissions, we have kept the global athlete community informed and engaged at every stage.
We held six conference calls with the global network of ACs in 2020, where we listened to your feedback in order to relay it to the IOC decision-making bodies. IOC President Thomas Bach attended three of these calls to address athlete representatives directly and answer your questions.
Participation across NOC and IF ACs was strong in all of these conference calls, with more than 100 athlete representatives on each call, and even exceeding 200 athlete representatives on some calls, too.
Our reach has also grown, and the Athlete365 community passed the impressive milestone of more than 100,000 registered athletes, Olympians and entourage members before the end of the year.
Athlete365 COVID-19 support
Crucially, despite the financial challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the IOC further strengthened its support to athletes at all levels. First, it was announced that the athlete quota places for Tokyo 2020 would be unaffected by the postponement. Then in April, as an immediate response to the needs created by the postponement, the IOC extended into 2021 the Olympic Solidarity programmes for Tokyo 2020, increasing by USD 25.3 million the budget allocated to NOCs for their preparations for and participation in the Games. This meant more than 1,500 athletes from 186 NOCs, as well as the refugee athletes, will continue to benefit from their Olympic Solidarity programmes related to Tokyo 2020 up to the Games.
From the beginning, we used Athlete365 to communicate important updates, launching a coronavirus information landing page with useful and practical information to help you navigate the crisis safely, as well as links to resources available through the World Health Organisation (WHO). This section of the website also served as a hub for you to find the latest information on anti-doping and International Federation (IF) qualifications.
We then conducted a survey across the athlete community to understand your biggest challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, which received more than 4,000 responses from athletes, entourage members and stakeholders across 135 countries. Responding to your concerns, we partnered with a number of experts to bring you advice on some of the key challenges revealed in the survey, such as training effectively, staying motivated, managing your mental health, coping with isolation and funding your sports career. This included an article and video from Team NL psychologist Paul Wylleman, who worked with us to develop six key pieces of advice to help you stay positive.
To support these tailored resources, we also launched a popular “Stay Strong” Webinar series, which saw superstar athletes such as Eliud Kipchoge and Aksel Lund Svindal, and IOC Mental Health Working Group co-Chair Dr Claudia Reardon pass on their advice to our community for coping with the situation.
Empowering you through funding and career opportunities
We further responded to your needs by creating a number of new programmes in partnership with the Worldwide Olympic Partners, to provide you with career support and funding opportunities during the period of prolonged uncertainty.
For example, we teamed up with Intel to give you access to a suite of exclusive services, including an annual subscription to LinkedIn Learning, six months’ free access to sleep and well-being app Headspace, and the chance to learn from a career expert through the Intel Mentor Programme.
We also developed an opportunity for the community to earn money by sharing your passion and connecting with fans through Airbnb Olympian and Paralympian Experiences. To date, over 1,000 Olympians have expressed interest, and many have benefited from the programme through the Athlete365 platform. And, most recently, the P&G Athlete for Good Fund offered 52 grants worth USD 10,000 each to athletes supporting charitable causes.
We also adapted other programmes to make sure that you could continue to benefit from them during the pandemic. For example, the Athlete365 Career+ Power Up Outreach Workshops were adapted for online delivery, and we held an exclusive online workshop series for AC chairs to help them deliver their projects and activities online rather than physically.
In addition, the Olympic Solidarity Activity Grants remained available to ACs from every NOC so that they could continue to support athletes locally. This resulted in 61 approved applications for the USD 10,000 grant.
However, this also means that a number of NOC ACs have not yet applied for the grant, and we encourage you to do so in 2021.
Rule 50 and athlete expression consultation
Racism and any form of discrimination have no place in sport. In June, the IOC Executive Board supported the IOC AC initiative to explore different ways how Olympic athletes can express their support for the principles enshrined in the Olympic Charter, including at the time of the Olympic Games, and respecting the Olympic spirit.
After this, we began a consultation with athletes and athlete representatives to discuss key issues related to athlete expression before and during the Olympic Games. This followed the publication of the Rule 50 Guidelines in January, which are designed to provide clarity on the existing opportunities you have to express your views at the Olympic Games, and where it is not appropriate to do so.
As part of the consultation process, our Vice-Chair Danka Bartekova, other IOC AC members and I joined a number of calls with NOC ACs, some of which organised surveys in their own countries, and gathered qualitative feedback.
We then launched our global survey on 7 December to hear your views on existing and potential new opportunities to express your views at the Games, and your fresh ideas on how the IOC, the Olympic Games and the global athlete community can amplify the voices of athletes everywhere, and ultimately better support our efforts to tackle racism and discrimination.
The Olympic Solidarity Activity Grants remained available to ACs from every NOC so that they could continue to support athletes locally. This resulted in 61 approved applications for the USD 10,000 grant.
As we turn our focus towards Tokyo 2020, we recognise and understand the many practical and real challenges you have and continue to face due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and assure you that we are doing everything we can to address these in these exceptionally difficult circumstances.
We received regular and detailed updates from the IOC administration during the IOC AC meetings and Global Network calls, including information on the countermeasures and different considerations for Tokyo 2020. As the joint Chair of the NOC and Athletes Working Group it has ensured the IOC AC has been able not only to receive the latest information but also to keep the athlete voice at the centre of the discussions and decisions.
We know that a lot of the planning and lessons for Tokyo 2020 will also be considered where necessary for Beijing 2022. Emma Terho from the IOC AC will continue to represent athletes’ views on the Beijing 2022 Coordination Commission.
Stay connected with us through the Athlete365 social platforms for our latest updates, and contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any feedback or questions for our Commission. I wish you the very best with your sporting and non-sporting goals in 2021.
In the Olympic spirit,