The Olympic Flame for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 was lit on 12 March in Ancient Olympia, Greece. IOC President Thomas Bach and several guests joined the lighting ceremony, showing their unified support for the Games. These included the President of the Hellenic Republic, Prokopios Pavlopoulos, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee acting President, Toshiaki Endo, IOC Tokyo 2020 Coordination Commission Chair John Coates and Hellenic Olympic Committee President Spyros Capralos.
“This ceremony demonstrates once more our commitment to the success of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Nineteen weeks before the Opening Ceremony, we are strengthened in this commitment by the many authorities and sports organisations around the world which are taking so many significant measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus,” said IOC President. “At the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 we will stand together, united in all our diversity. We will be united by our commitment to the Olympic values. We will be united by our emotions. This makes each and every one of us a member of this unique Olympic community. This Olympic community will show the entire world that our shared humanity is stronger than all the forces that want to divide us,” he added. Full speech here.
During his visit, President Bach also offered his gratitude to the Hellenic Olympic Committee and its President, IOC Member Spyros Capralos, for the close cooperation with the Greek government to ensure the flame lighting could take place despite the COVID-19 virus. Full news release here.
Earlier, at the Olympia Archaeological Museum, President Thomas Bach awarded the Olympic Order in Gold to the President of the Hellenic Republic, Prokopios Pavlopoulos, in recognition of his “deep commitment to our Olympic Movement and his loyalty to the Olympic spirit and ideals which emphasise humanity and humanism”.
Also in Olympia, the President attended the signing ceremony for the Olympic Truce Declaration, established by the Municipality of Ancient Olympia and the International Olympic Truce Centre, in a joint effort to further strengthen the Olympic Games’ message for peace. Former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and former Greek Minister for Employment and Social Protection Fani Palli-Petralia, who are Vice-Chairs of the International Olympic Truce Centre; European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas; President of the Japanese Olympic Committee and IOC Member Yasuhiro Yamashita; Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee acting President Toshiaki Endo; and IOC Member Spyros Capralos were also present at the ceremony.
In Athens, on the eve of the lighting ceremony of the Olympic Flame, President Bach had a meeting with the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. The two leaders discussed the role of sport in society, the solidarity model as well as the preparations for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
President Bach addressed the members of the Board of Directors of the International Tennis Federation (ITF), meeting at Olympic House. The preparations for the Olympic tennis tournament at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and the current situation linked to the coronavirus were mentioned. The President also presented an OLY certificate to Board member Mary Pierce, who then signed the Olympians Wall in the IOC Sports Department. The President also met with ITF President and IOC Member David Haggerty.
At the SwissTech Convention Centre in Lausanne, President Bach participated in the SportCity 2020 Congress on the theme of sport and youth which brought together professionals from Swiss sport. The President underlined the important role of sport for young people as well as the success and the legacy of the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020, before participating in a Q&A session. On this occasion, he also met the Mayor of Lausanne, Grégoire Junod.
Meetings were also held with IOC Members John Coates and Camilo Pérez Lopez Moreira. Various current Olympic topics were discussed.
OTHER olympic news
In a statement on the Rodchenkov Act, the initiative of the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation to address the issue of anti-doping in law, the IOC commended the fact that the draft legislation is concentrating on the athletes’ “entourage”. This is absolutely in line with IOC policy, because it sees that a secretive network around the athlete is implicated in most cases of doping. With these two measures (applying the World Anti-doping Code to the US professional leagues and NCAA; and harmonising globally the prosecution and sanctioning of the athletes’ entourage), this legislative initiative would greatly contribute to the equal treatment of all athletes around the world and to the strengthening of the global fight against doping. Read the full statement here.
On 12 March, the IOC issued a statement on the Olympic Flame lighting and the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, in which it confirms its full commitment to the success of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, as well as to delivering safe Olympic Games in July this year, in line with the Japanese hosts. Faced with the current situation, the IOC is proud of the solidarity and flexibility shown by the athletes, the Ifs and the NOCs, which are managing challenges with the qualification system in a number of sports. The IOC will continue to follow the advice of WHO, as the leading United Nations agency on this topic. Read the full statement here.
The IOC has taken a leadership role in the UN Women Sports for Generation Equality initiative, which aims to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in and through sport. The initiative was launched on 9 March by UN Women in partnership with the IOC. The sports movement is invited to join the Initiative to accelerate progress on a set of common principles and aligned objectives that will harness the power of sport in making gender equality a reality within and through sport. Full press release here.
The International Hockey Federation (FIH) organised a week-long celebration of International Women’s Day. A number of stories were published on the FIH website (www.fih.ch), highlighting the numerous activities by the FIH, its continental federations and national associations to promote the role of women on and off the hockey pitch. Full details here.
In order to best protect the health and well-being of participants in international aquatics competitions, the International Swimming Federation (FINA) has established a Covid-19 taskforce. Composed of leading medical experts, the group will consider and assess the spread of Covid-19. It will consider the consequences of that spread for FINA events and efforts to safeguard participants both in terms of practical measures and communications. The FINA taskforce will be responsible for: making a forecast of the virus’ impact on FINA events; recommending protective measures; informing FINA Member Federations on common public health strategies; and coordinating with the IOC Medical and Scientific Commission. Full press release here.
To mark International Women’s Day, World Sailing signed the UN Women Sport for Generation Equality Declaration. This follows on from the World Sailing Trust’s publication of its Strategic Review into Women in Sailing. The Federation thus joins the IOC, the Professional Squash Federation, Cricket Australia, the Ibero-American Council for Sports and Male Champions for Change in Sport as initial signatories of the Initiative. World Sailing’s first action in this regard is adopting a Gender Equality Charter, which will sit at the heart of the organisation. This Charter will include policies to remove all forms of gender-based discrimination and bias. This approach is in line with the IOC’s Olympic Agenda 2020. Full press release here.
Billie Jean King, Jennie Price and Lindsay Davenport are among the female role models supporting the International Tennis Federation (ITF)’s “Advantage All” gender equality initiative. The ITF made this announcement on International Women’s Day. Through the initiative, the ITF is committed to improving gender equality in all areas of the game to ensure tennis is a leading light in sport and society, while empowering, inspiring and enabling women and girls to reach their full potential on and off the court. Full details here.
Norway’s Marit Strømøy became the first female powerboat racer to be named “Driver of the Year” at the 11th Union Internationale Motonautique (UIM) Awards Ceremony, held at The Olympic Museum in Lausanne on 7 March. She is also the first and only woman to have won a Formula 1 race. In addition to recognising the achievements of its world champions, the UIM also presented its “Environmental Award” and the “UIM Stefano Casiraghi Memorial Trophy”. The latter was awarded to Chungwon Choue, the President of World Taekwondo, for his pioneering humanitarian initiatives and his personal investment in international sports and peace. This was also the first time the ceremony was held outside Monaco. More details here.
NationaL OlympiC Committees
The uniform to be worn by the Brazilian team at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 has been unveiled. It features Amazonian fish and other references to Brazilian flora and fauna combined with traditional elements of Japanese painting. Olympic medallist and world gymnastics champion Arthur Nory was the first athlete to try the new uniform (pictured above). In Tokyo, the Brazilian delegation will consist of around 270 athletes. The uniform will be officially launched on 15 April, 100 days before the start of the Games in Tokyo. More details here on the Brazilian NOC website.
The Cuban NOC welcomed the President of the Haitian NOC, Hans Larsen, and its Secretary General, Alain Jean-Pierre, on a visit to Cuba to strengthen the links between the two NOCs. Thus, a collaboration agreement aimed at increasing exchanges, developing joint programmes and cooperation in sports, was signed by the Presidents of the Cuban and Haitian NOCs, Roberto León Richards (left in photo) and Hans Larsen (right), respectively. Some of the areas identified in this agreement include the training of coaches and specialists, sports administration and management, the fight against doping, information, the recruitment of coaches and athletes. Members of the Cuban NOC’s executive committee and Cuban sports legends, volleyball players Regla Torres and Yumilka Ruíz and athlete Yipsi Moreno, attended the signing ceremony.
On 13 March, the Czech NOC announced the loss of one of the greatest personalities in Czech sport. Dana Zátopková (photo) has died at the age of 97. She was a double Olympic medallist in the javelin throw, a two-time European champion and the wife of the other Czech sports legend, Emil Zátopek. She was the oldest Czech Olympian. She first competed at the Olympic Games London 1948, and in total she competed at four Olympic Games winning a gold medal in Helsinki 1952 and a silver in Rome 1960. With Emil Zátopek she was part of one of the most famous sporting couples in the world. Four years after their marriage, they both won Olympic gold in Helsinki. Zátopková remained involved in sport after her competitive retirement in 1962. She took up coaching, and in the years 1960-1972 was a member of the Women’s Commission of the International Athletics Federation (now World Athletics). In 1998 she was awarded the Olympic Order, and 15 years later she was presented with the Medal for Merit. More details here.
The Spanish NOC, through Olympic Solidarity, and the municipality of Getafe are to build a sports centre for refugees. The aim is to help these people integrate and improve their quality of life through sport. Attending the launch were NOC President Alejandro Blanco; the Chair of the Refugee Assistance Commission, Carlos Berzosa; and the Mayor of Getafe, Sara Hernández (photo). In addition, the NOC signed an agreement with the University of Deusto, in Bilbao, for the creation of an Olympic Studies Centre on the Basque university campus. The agreement was signed by NOC President Alejandro Blanco, the President of the Spanish Olympic Academy, Conrado Durántez, and the Rector of the University, José María Guibert. More details on www.coe.es.
On the anniversary of the 2011 Japan earthquake, on 11 March, the British Olympic Association announced a partnership with the British Red Cross, with the latter becoming Team GB’s official charity partner for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. The partnership is aimed at inspiring the British public to come together and make a positive difference this Olympic year, supporting people in crisis in the UK and overseas. Full details here.
The Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) closed the ninth year of its International Sports Leader Academy (JISLA) with a graduation ceremony on 30 January at Japan Sport Olympic Square during the Annual NOC/National Federations (NFs) International Relations Forum. This year, 38 people representing 31 NFs and other sports organisations took part. The Academy was established in 2011 and aims to give participants the chance to learn international communications skills and knowledge on the IOC, IFs, NOCs and other topics, to contribute to the Olympic Movement and enhance the international presence and competitiveness of Japanese sport. Many of the 249 alumni have gone on to work for international sports organisations. More details on www.joc.or.jp.
The Secretary General of the NOC of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Saken Mussaibekov, met with the Regional Representative of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) for Central Asia, Yasuko Oda, in Nur-Sultan, the country’s capital on 11 March. There are approximately 600 refugees as of today living in Kazakhstan and most of them live in the biggest cities of the country – Almaty and Shymkent. Mussaibekov expressed support to the refugees living in Kazakhstan and the NOC commitment’s to establishing a strong partnership between the two organisations. Both parties agreed to sign the Memorandum of Understanding as an important component of joint efforts to promote sport among refugees and draw public attention to the issue of refugees in Kazakhstan and Central Asia, as a whole. More info at www.olympic.kz
To mark International Women’s Day on 8 March in Vilnius, the Lithuanian NOC presented and launched the United Nations project HeForShe for the advancement of gender equality. The event was attended by former Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė; the Minister of Education, Science and Sport, Algirdas Monkevičius, NOC Vice-President Saulius Galadauskas; and prominent figures from the sports community. During this campaign, the stories of five top athletes and the men supporting them, whether husbands, colleagues or friends, will be told through videos. Among other things, the project seeks to remind people that women’s sport, like gender equality, is a shared objective, and to draw more attention to women’s team sports. More details on www.ltok.lt.
The Venezuelan NOC has announced the creation of a school volleyball league. More than 30 schools in the Caracas region took part in the launch, held at the National Sports Institute. Through this initiative, the NOC, in collaboration with the Education Ministry, will enable 720 children and young people to play volleyball. The NOC is also providing balls and equipment. In due course, the initiative will be extended to eight other sports.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) celebrated International Women’s Day by highlighting three outstanding figures who have impacted the Paralympic Movement. Maha Barghouti of Jordan (right-hand photo), Paulina Malinowska-Kowalczyk of Poland (centre) and Paralympics Australia, represented by Lynne Anderson (left-hand photo) each received the IPC 2020 International Women’s Day Recognition. This was the first time the honour has expanded into categories since its inception in 2013: Next Generation Leader, Builder and National Paralympic Committee/IF. The winners were chosen by the IPC’s Women in Sport Committee, chaired by Rita van Driel. Full details here.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) extended the reach of its Athlete Central Whereabouts App by adding the following nine languages – which, in addition to English and French, brings the total languages to eleven: Bulgarian, Chinese, Suomi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Serbian and Turkish. Launched in November 2019, Athlete Central is WADA’s app that facilitates athlete compliance with Whereabouts rules under the global anti-doping programme. More info here.