IOC Athletes’ Commission lead global call with athlete representatives on the Coronavirus
The IOC Athletes’ Commission (AC) yesterday conducted a call with over 220 athlete representatives from around the globe, in order to hear about the challenges the athlete community is experiencing, understand their varying personal circumstances and identify how best the IOC and the Olympic Movement can support them at this exceptional time. The IOC President and a number of IOC directors answered questions on various topics surrounding the recent outbreak of COVID-19, or coronavirus, and its impact on athletes’ lives and training, the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and the world of sport.
- The number-one priority in decision-making around the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is the health and safety of the athletes and everyone involved and to support the efforts to contain the outbreak of COVID-19.
- The advice of a dedicated task force formed in February by the IOC, the Japanese authorities, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and, very importantly, the World Health Organization (WHO) is key in all decisions taken with regard to the delivery of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
- Questions were answered on a range of topics from qualification events and the delivery of the Olympic Games to medical advice and anti-doping.
Foreword by Kirsty Coventry
Following our last update just a couple of weeks ago, we wanted to have a dedicated call to discuss with you the latest situation on the coronavirus as it is having such an impact on all our lives at the moment.
Many athletes have no access to training facilities and some athletes cannot even leave their houses. We recognise and understand the enormous challenges that so many athletes have in their daily lives at the moment. This is an extraordinary situation that is requiring extraordinary solutions and solidarity from everyone so that we keep not just ourselves but our community safe
We are looking at ways in which we can support all athletes going through stress at this time. We are looking at other ways we can support you virtually on Athlete365. If you have any ideas, please let us know. As an athlete community we should be looking at ways to help each other during these difficult times.
As an athlete, Olympian and IOC AC Chair, I strongly believe that athletes and athlete representatives should be as informed as much possible in such situations. It is vitally important as representatives that we update our athlete community with accurate and credible information that can help our peers and fellow athletes.
I urge you all to stay safe, keep your family safe and if you have further questions please reach out to us.
Summary of the call
We are following two guiding principles in our decision-making around the delivery of the Olympic Games:
- First and foremost, the health of every single person involved and supporting the containment of the virus as strongly as possible.
- Secondly, we aim to safeguard the interests of those competing, the athletes, and the interests of Olympic sports. (Link to the latest communique)
It was by applying these principles that we set up a dedicated task force in February to help find the best solution within the current global situation. This task force involves the IOC, the Japanese authorities, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The IOC will follow the advice of this task force in these exceptional circumstances.
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
As we all know the situation continues to change on a daily basis, and it is not the right time to make drastic decisions. No doubt there is a massive challenge ahead of us but for now, we remain committed to Tokyo 2020, which is due to start in about four months’ time on 24 July.
The task force is monitoring the ongoing situation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We will adapt as needed, as our responsibility, based on the guiding principles, to you and to society, is protecting everyone’s health and containing this virus.
We will be realistic in our analysis, optimistic in our commitment, and responsible in our actions, putting athletes first in each step and decision.
Many qualification events have been postponed or cancelled. A number of sports have suspended their international calendars. Many countries have suspended sports events, put in place a maximum number of people who can gather together and limited international and, in some cases, domestic travel.
All of this means that for many of you it is difficult or even impossible to train properly at the moment, and some of you face even more challenging circumstances in your daily lives. We know also that any uncertainty in regard to the Games themselves and the qualification processes in your respective sports can only add to the stress and concerns you have.
To explain where we are in the qualification process for Tokyo 2020, to date, 57 per cent of the athletes have qualified for Tokyo 2020, and these quotas will remain in place. Anyone who has already qualified will not lose their place.
For now, there are three months until the end of the qualification deadline. We know many events have been cancelled or postponed. Where it is possible for any scheduled qualification events to take place safely and credibly ahead of the qualification deadline of 30 June, they may still go ahead, but only if they provide fair access to all athletes and teams and also if the athletes have had the chance to properly prepare for them.
In cases where this is not possible, a fair and credible process will be put in place using previous results, including the rankings that exist in a number of sports, or results from events that have already taken place. Where necessary, additional athlete quotas may be granted in exceptional circumstances and this will be examined on a case-by-case basis
We know the next step is to provide all athletes with certainty on Olympic qualification as quickly as possible. Now the principles have been established, we will finalise any necessary changes to qualification events and qualification systems by the first week of April. This will be done in consultation with your athlete representatives. We fully recognise the very serious challenges many athletes are currently facing in their preparation, training, travel and daily lives.
The International Testing Agency (ITA) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) continue to focus on safeguarding the Olympic Games from doping in these exceptional circumstances. There is a dedicated pre-Games testing task force (consisting of IFs and NADOs with WADA and coordinated by the ITA), which is monitoring the testing of Olympic athletes and will ensure that any gaps in testing are addressed in the lead-up to the Games and in testing at the Games themselves. There is also a new programme in place to store the pre-Games samples, organised by the ITA and funded by the IOC, which means that over the next 10 years any new tests that detect prohibited substances for a longer period of time can be used (as is already the case for anabolic steroids).
Around the world, a number of travel restrictions have been put in place, and several countries have asked people to remain in their homes whenever possible. Aside from leading to disruption in training, this has also led to many athletes feeling isolated and overwhelmed by the constant stream of news. This was also discussed on the athlete call yesterday.
It is vital that you remain in good mental health, and we advise that you stay in regular remote contact with friends and family, and refer to the Athlete365 Well-being section of the website for more advice. There are more resources for athletes to be published soon, in the meantime should you have ideas please let the Athlete365 team know.
We are aware that a number of athletes are concerned about their health when it comes to contracting the coronavirus. It is, of course, a serious concern, which is why there has been a large global reaction.
It is important to bear in mind that this is considered by WHO as a mild disease when infecting younger, healthier people. If the WHO advice of self-isolation and quarantining is taken seriously, it can help reduce the spread of the virus, which will help healthcare systems around the world to manage it more effectively, saving many lives.
As part of our ongoing efforts to keep you informed and as up-to-date as possible on the impact of COVID-19, the IOC will continue to publish the latest information and advice for athletes here.
It is vital 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 Athlete365@olympic.org
“We had a great call with 220 athlete representatives from all around the world. It was very constructive and gave us a lot of insight. First priority is safeguarding the health of the athletes and contributing to the containment of the virus.” – IOC President Thomas Bach pic.twitter.com/X1nOIvz5FB
— IOC MEDIA (@iocmedia) March 18, 2020