The New Leaders Forum held in Helsinki, Finland, is a “best practice in action”, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said when attending the Forum on Tuesday. He praised the initiative by the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of Finland and supported by the IOC and the European Olympic Committees (EOC) in his opening speech: “Here we have 30 young leaders in sport from across all of Europe, who are committed to leading the change toward gender equality. This is exactly the kind of practical action that we need.”
The two-day Forum saw around 200 attendees from Europe and many other parts of the world. Amongst them were IOC Executive Board (EB) member Prince Feisal Al Hussein and IOC Members Princess Nora of Liechtenstein, Lydia Nsekera, Marisol Casado, Sari Essayah and Emma Terho.
During his stay in Finland, the IOC President was welcomed by the Finnish Prime Minister, Antti Rinne. In their meeting, the IOC President thanked the Prime Minister for his government’s support for the European Council conclusion on “combatting corruption in sport” and on “safeguarding children in sport”. These conclusions will be adopted at the Sports Ministers’ Council meeting on 21 November 2019 under the Finnish EU Presidency.
Both leaders also discussed the European sports model, which is under threat. It is based on the two important pillars of values-driven organisations and volunteers. The Prime Minister expressed his support for the values-based model.
The IOC President was accompanied by the two IOC Members in Finland, Sari Essayah and Emma Terho, as well as Finnish NOC President Timo Ritakallio and Secretary General Mikko Salonen.
The New Leaders Forum marked the end of a training period for 30 Young Leaders, women and men from across Europe who went through a leadership programme and were mentored by current sports leaders. This programme is a legacy project of Birgitta Kervinen, the 2017 IOC Women and Sport World Trophy winner. In a symbolic gesture, the programme participants passed on a baton to the IOC President, thanking him for his thought leadership and inspiration in the field of gender equality.
When speaking to the Young Leaders and the Forum attendees, Bach pointed out the achievements of the IOC on and off the field of play in its aim to achieve gender equality: “When the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 get underway, we will have also achieved gender balance at the Olympic Games, with the highest-ever representation of female athletes in Olympic history at close to 49 per cent.” He further noted how the IOC has also modified the Olympic competition schedule to balance the visibility of men’s and women’s events on the programme.
At the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018 and the upcoming Winter Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020, there was and will be complete gender equality, with exactly the same number of male and female athletes competing in the same number of sports and events. “Gender equality at the Olympic Games sends a strong signal to all sports organisations around the world”, the IOC President explained.
He went on to say how the IOC is changing its leadership landscape: “Off the field of play, we are also putting our commitment into action. Today we have a historic high of over 45 per cent female members on IOC Commissions. Since 2013, as a result of Olympic Agenda 2020, female participation in the IOC Commissions has more than doubled. The number of female IOC Members is currently at 35 per cent of the total membership, up from 21 per cent at the start of my presidency.”
The IOC is also giving the young generation a voice. A growing number of IOC Young Leaders, a group of inspiring young people from around the world who are using sport for positive change in their communities, have been appointed to the IOC Commissions to bridge the generation gap in the leadership. The IOC President explained: “As you know from your New Leaders initiative, it is crucial to give young people a voice if you want to stay relevant in today’s society. By empowering tomorrow’s leaders, young leaders just like you, we give them the opportunity to shape their and our future.”
The IOC President thanked the many International Federations and NOCs which have been working on this topic and implementing the IOC Gender Equality Recommendations, and he encouraged everyone not to become complacent but to be ambitious: “Yes, we have made progress. But there is still a long way to go. When the IOC conducted a survey for NOCs on gender equality this summer, we found that over 50 per cent of the European NOCs were actively engaged in promoting gender equality. Another 30 per cent wanted advice on how to promote women and advance gender equality. While on the one hand it is encouraging to see that, for more than half of the European NOCs gender equality is a priority, we must also on the other hand recognise that there is still a significant number of NOCs where this is not the case.”