More than 4,000 elite athletes from 190 countries and 120 sports disciplines played a part in the creation of the Athletes’ Declaration, a historic initiative discussed today at the International Athletes’ Forum.
The Athletes’ Declaration outlines a common set of aspirational rights and responsibilities for athletes within the Olympic Movement. Here we look at what it means and how it came about.
The idea of an Athletes’ Rights and Responsibility Declaration was first conceived in early 2017 and discussed among various Athletes’ Commissions. Its development and delivery is part of the implementation of the IOC Athletes’ Commission Strategy.
The goal was ambitious: to support athletes across all sports, of all ages, genders and nationalities, by outlining an aspirational athlete-driven set of rights and responsibilities within the Olympic Movement.
Following the launch of the Athletes’ Commission Strategy in September 2017, a steering committee – consisting of 20 athlete representatives from across the Olympic Movement, chaired by New Zealand Olympian and BMX racer Sarah Walker – was assembled with the task of making this a reality.
The idea was discussed at length with more than 100 athletes at the 2017 International Athletes’ Forum in Lausanne, before the steering committee launched a year-long process, which involved discussions with Olympic stakeholders and two rounds of extensive surveys featuring thousands of athletes. The intention was to hear from every voice, and after obtaining feedback from 4,292 athletes, across 190 countries and more than 120 sports disciplines, the response can be considered to have been truly international.
The surveys – the first of which was sent out in six languages, and the second in ten languages – were organised around five key themes, which addressed the areas of most interest to athletes. These themes were: sports competition, integrity and clean sport, safeguarding, governance and communication, and career and marketing. All were ranked as at least “important” by more than 90 per cent of respondents in the second survey.
These ideals were assembled into the final charter, which contains principles such as “Practise sport without discrimination”, “Be part of a clean sporting environment” and “Respect the solidarity principle of the Olympic Movement”, among many others. This historic declaration was then officially adopted by the 133rd IOC Session on 9 October 2018, in Buenos Aires.
The IOC Athletes’ Commission is now hoping that the Declaration will be expressly endorsed by Olympic Movement sporting organisations across the globe, a subject which has been discussed today the IOC Athletes’ Forum in Lausanne from 13 to 15 April.
For Sarah Walker, and all members of the steering committee who played such a key role in ensuring that the Athletes’ Declaration vision was realised, it is an achievement that generates great pride.
“It’s all athletes joined together to create a document that represents all our voices and allows us to feel supported,” Sarah Walker said. “I am proud that so many athletes around the world have actively contributed to shaping it. We are committed to encouraging ongoing dialogue as the Athletes’ Declaration is a living document which will have updates and revised editions to ensure its continuous relevance and effectiveness.”