A First for International Athletes Forum

(ATR) The 10th International Athletes Forum goes virtual, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the IOC Athletes Commission.

(ATR) The 10th International Athletes Forum kicked off virtually – for the first time in its nearly two-decade history – while celebrating the 40th anniversary of the IOC Athletes Commission.

The Tokyo and Beijing Games; athlete support systems, mental health and well-being; and Olympic Agenda 2020+5 are among featured topics of the two-day Forum, originating with an elaborate, high-tech digital presence from Lausanne.

According to the IOC, more than 2,000 athletes and Olympian representatives have pre-registered and all sessions are being live-streamed on the Athlete 365 digital channel.

IOC president Thomas Bach, one of the founding members of the IOC Athletes Commission in 1981, and IOC Athletes Commission chair Kirsty Coventry delivered opening remarks, followed by an update on the current Athlete Commission’s work and progress from IOC AC co-chair Danka Bartekova.

Bartekova outlined the six new Athlete Commission recommendations that were presented to, and fully endorsed by, the IOC Executive Board on April 21. The three-time Olympian from Slovakia said the recommendations were developed after consultation and feedback with more than 3,500 athletes and athlete representatives from 185 NOCs, in addition to independent experts.

The first recommendation – to increase opportunities for athletes’ expression during the Games – was highlighted.

"It was very important for us to ensure there are more innovative opportunities for athletes to share their views," Bartekova said, of recommendation number one. "Here we propose to increase opportunity for athletes to express themselves at the Olympic Games and celebrate the collective values that we all hold very close to our hearts."

Bartekova also discussed athlete input and opinions regarding the IOC’s Rule 50, which will continue to prohibit any form of protest during medal ceremonies or on the field of play.

"Based upon the feedback from the global athlete community, about 70-percent of athletes want to preserve the Olympic podium, field of play and official ceremonies from protest and demonstration," Bartekova said, noting that this input is reflected in recommendation number three.

"We also heard from athletes that they would like more clarity on sanctions and we recommend to continue to examine breaches of Rule 50 on a case-by-case basis to ensure due process and the proportionality of sanctions," she said of recommendation number four.

Bartekova also noted that changes to the Athletes’ Olympic Oath given at the Opening Ceremony have been approved. She said other initiatives highlight the values of peace, respect, solidarity and equality, can be accomplished through social media campaigns and digital messaging at competitions.

Bartekova concluded by leading to a video highlighting the evolution, progress and numerous accomplishments over the 40-year history of the IOC Athletes Commission was shown, having been established in Baden-Baden, Germany, in 1981.

"The Olympic Movement is all about the clean athletes," Bach said, in the opening of the video. "They are our best ambassadors, they are our role models, they are our treasure."

"If the athletes remain at the heart of the Games and if their rights and responsibilities are being looked after, that’s really powerful and for me that’s the most important," said Coventry, seen in the video following Bach.

The video proceeded providing a timeline of the IOC Athletes Commissions’ many achievements. It noted that the first Athletes Commission election took place at the 1996 Atlanta Games and for the first time in 2000, eight athletes commission members became IOC members.

It also informed that the first International Athletes Forum convened in Lausanne in 2002, addressing key issues such as anti-doping and self-marketing for athletes.

The IAF continued with a session on Olympic Solidarity and athlete support systems with Coventry, IOC chief operating officer Lana Haddad and Olympic Solidarity and NOC relations director James Macleod fielding questions from athletes around the globe.

The final session of the three-hour virtual program pertained to athletes mental health and well-being with IOC medical and scientific director Dr. Richard Budgett engaging with athlete participants.

Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022, Olympic Agenda 2020+5 and a Q&A session with Bach are planned for the second and final day of the 2021 International Athletes Forum.

The Forum moderator Jeanette Kwakye teased tomorrow’s session featuring the IOC president.

"If you remember two years ago, our very own IOC president Thomas Bach with that mammoth Q&A session," she said. "I don’t suspect tomorrow will be any different.

"He will be here, it’s a free for all - you can ask him anything you need to ahead of these Games in the Sumer, Beijing 2022 and wider."

Written and reported by Brian Pinelli

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