2021 saw the successful and safe delivery of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which was highly appreciated by the athlete community.

The IOC AC managed to successfully oversee many projects in 2021, such as the Rule 50 consultation, new opportunities with TOP Partners, the NOC AC Activity Grant programme and much more.

We all thank outgoing Chair Kirsty Coventry for her hard work, and look forward to the coming years with Emma Terho and Seung-min Ryu at the head of the IOC AC.

Dear Athletes,

2021 has been another difficult year for the world and the sporting community. The COVID-19 pandemic has continued to cause widespread disruption around the world, leaving you with many practical and emotional challenges to address.

Despite this, thanks to your resilience and our solidarity, we have celebrated some tremendous successes over the past 12 months, and the power of the Olympic spirit has been evident both on and off the field of play.

The highlight of the year was obviously the spectacular Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, where the Olympic dream of more than 11,000 athletes came true. 2021 was also a year in which there were substantial developments in athlete representation, with the IOC AC’s recommendations in regard to Rule 50 being implemented, and a landmark International Athletes’ Forum (IAF) hosted – the first to be held online.

To also strengthen the network of athlete representatives, the IOC – following the proposal from the IOC AC – updated the Olympic Charter to include a more significant reference to the importance of ACs. This made the creation of ACs within all NOCs a mandatory requirement, therefore empowering the athlete voice on local national across the Olympic Movement.

Despite the challenges of life during a pandemic, the resilience, initiative and sporting ability of the athlete community have been the defining features

Emma Terho

Despite the challenges of life during a pandemic, the resilience, initiative and sporting ability of the athlete community have been the defining features, and the year ended with another edition of the Olympic Games just around the corner – where we will no doubt witness further astonishing feats of sporting accomplishment and cooperation.

As we enter a new year, it is important to reflect on the milestones of 2021 and our accomplishments as a community of competitors and friends.

RULE 50 CONSULTATION

In April, the IOC AC received the full support of the IOC Executive Board for our report on Athlete Expression in relation to Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter. During 2020 and early 2021, we consulted with the global network of athletes’ commissions and the wider athlete community on the topic of athlete expression and additional ways for athletes to express their views at the Olympic Games.

The consultation process involved more than 3,500 athletes from 185 different National Olympic Committees (NOCs), and engaged athletes representing all 41 Olympic sports; and the recommendations submitted by the IOC AC were a direct result of this collaborative process.

Our recommendations reflected your voice: you said you wanted increased opportunities for athletes’ expression during and outside the Olympic Games, and at the same time felt that the podium, field of play and official ceremonies should be preserved as neutral spaces. You also called for more clarity and information on Rule 50.

We were delighted to see that, as part of implementing our recommendations, the IOC approved the all six of them, which provided those of you who competed in Tokyo and will compete in Beijing with further clarity and guidance on the wide range of opportunities athletes now have to express their views.

Read the IOC Athletes’ Commission report on Athlete Expression here.

Read about the additional opportunities for athlete expression during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

INTERNATIONAL ATHLETES’ FORUM 2021

None of the work of the IOC AC would be possible without your engagement, a theme that was magnificently reflected by the 2021 IAF – the largest gathering of athlete representatives across the Olympic Movement.

Due to the pandemic, the 10th IAF was the first to be held virtually, with the event streamed live on Athlete365 on 26 and 27 May. The online format presented us with a unique opportunity to allow more athlete representatives to be part of the Forum, with invitations extended to AC members as opposed to only the chairs in the past.

One key topic of the Forum was the newly launched Olympic Agenda 2020+5, with discussions around the implementation of the various athlete-focused recommendations, as well as conversations on how we can best empower you and ACs globally.

With COVID-19 continuing to impact the way we prepare for competitions and gather as commissions, athlete mental and physical health was also at the forefront of discussions. Our athlete community has shown inspirational resilience and unity over the past two years, but it remains vital that we continue to develop ways in which we can support each other.

Despite the challenges, there were of course also huge waves of excitement and anticipation at the Forum ahead of two editions of the Olympic Games – Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022. We heard live from Japan for the latest on the preparations, and also from many athletes who expressed their excitement about the upcoming Games.

TOYKO 2020 Olympic Games

The discussions at the IAF were just a part of a huge programme of athlete engagement in the lead-up to the Tokyo 2020 Games. The AC held 10 calls with athletes in the run-up to the Games, and we aimed to fully support them during the Games through the Athlete365 platform.

Additionally, the IOC AC and our Chair at the time, Kirsty Coventry, were actively involved and worked closely with the IOC and Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee to support the safe and successful delivery of the Olympic Games for all participants, and to ensure the athletes’ interests were at the core of all decisions.

Tokyo was also the stage for the IOC AC election, with thousands of you competing in the Games taking the opportunity to cast your vote. From 30 candidates, four new members were elected to the Commission – Spanish basketballer Pau Gasol Saez, Italian swimmer Federica Pellegrini, Japanese fencer Yuki Ota and Polish cyclist Maja Martyna Włoszczowska – while we were also delighted to welcome Kenyan rugby sevens player Humphrey Kayange and Australian canoeist Jess Fox to the IOC AC as appointed members, in August and November respectively. Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen also replaced Kikkan Randall, who resigned from the IOC AC for personal reasons.

We also said goodbye to outgoing Chair Kirsty Coventry and Vice-Chair Danka Bartekova, as their terms came to an end along with three other members, Tony Estanguet, James Tomkins and Stefan Holm. I’d like to thank Kirsty and Danka for the incredible energy and professionalism they brought to the role. I know that it comes with great responsibility, and I will endeavour to perform it to the best of my ability. I am honoured to be here to represent all of you, along with Seung-min Ryu as Vice-Chair together with the entire the AC.

NOC AC ACTIVITY GRANTS

Since the beginning of 2020, and following a recommendation from the IAF in 2019, the IOC has offered financial support to NOC ACs through Olympic Solidarity NOC AC Activity Grants worth up to USD 10,000; and throughout the second year of the project we continued to see the benefits of that support.

The objective is to support athletes with representation and development both on and off the field of play, with 70 NOCs applying for an Activity Grant in 2021.

There were so many highlights, and here are just a few I want to share with you. In Africa, the Mali NOC AC held a forum for all its national federations’ ACs, while the Guinea NOC AC used the funding to hold its first athletes’ forum. In South America, the Chilean NOC AC funded 15 scholarships for athletes competing in Tokyo and Beijing to take online English-language courses, while in Oceania the Solomon Islands NOC AC visited schools across the country as part of a new youth development project to spread the Olympic values and the power of sport.

We encourage you to make the most of this opportunity and are excited to see what projects the grants will fund in 2022.

Find out more about how to apply for an NOC AC Activity Grant here.

ATHLETE SUPPORT

Athlete365 platform

The Athlete365 community has continued to grow, with marked increases in visits to the website and engagements with its social media channels across 2021. There are now more than 125,000 members of the Athlete365 community, among them nearly 30,000 Olympians – including 78 per cent of all the athletes who competed at Tokyo 2020.

Mental health

Throughout the pandemic, the platform has been a reliable source of expert advice and information in relation to COVID-19. A key part of Athlete365’s response to the pandemic has been its focus on mental health – primarily the #MentallyFit campaign, launched for Mental Health Awareness Month in October. The campaign had a reach of more than 6.5 million impressions on social media, raising awareness and providing skills to athletes and entourage members to help you maintain positive mental well-being.

The importance of well-being remains paramount, and there are dedicated resources for initiatives relating to positive mental health and athlete well-being, a series of inspirational athlete stories and expert advice available on Athlete365. Furthermore, the free and confidential Mentally Fit hotline has been open 24/7 to all athletes competing in Tokyo and Beijing, and continues to be available in more than 70 languages.

We know that an athletes journey can include those moments of glory, however there are the rough times too and it is important to have the support for the human behind the athlete at all times.

Dual career and career transition

2021 was also another landmark year in Athlete365’s package of career support. Twenty-four Power Up workshops were held, and as part of our outreach programmes, nine global workshops in six different languages – plus 15 NOC- and IF-hosted workshops – took place around the globe.

We renewed the Athlete365 Career+ collaboration with The Adecco Group, which included the exciting launch of the Athlete Career Portal – a unique subscription offering 12 months of online career training, assessments, resources and job opportunities free of charge to Athlete365 members.

The digital offerings available to athletes via Athlete365 have proved invaluable during the pandemic, and we are determined to ensure that you continue to be able to access these in the future.

New opportunities with TOP Partners

Throughout 2021, we delivered eight athlete support programmes with four different TOP Partners; with a record number of offers available for the global athlete community. We started 2021 with our Partner Intel, offering athletes expert mentoring, a subscription to Headspace and a licence for LinkedIn Learning.

We also launched two opportunities for athletes to apply for P&G’s Athlete for Good, a programme which collectively offered USD 940,000 to charitable organisations nominated by athletes that supported community impact, equality and inclusion, and environmental sustainability.

Samsung continued its support to Olympians at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games by providing every athlete with a free, limited edition, Samsung S21 5G phone.

Finally, Airbnb offered three different athlete support programmes, Airbnb Olympian and Paralympian Experiences, the Airbnb Athlete Travel Grant, and the Airbnb500. These programmes offered athletes a chance to create their own revenue and use Airbnb Travel Grants to support athletes’ journeys to the next Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Looking ahead

It is only a matter of weeks until the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 begin, and the world’s attention once again turns to athletes.

At the top of our agenda is the safe and successful delivery of the Games for athletes, while also prioritising our continued engagement with athletes in the lead-up to the Games. We have already had four calls with the global network of ACs focused on Beijing, plus a number of dedicated calls with NOC and IF ACs in order to ensure that athletes have the latest information on all aspects of the Games.

Athlete safety is our top priority, especially so as we continue to mitigate against COVID-19. We received invaluable feedback from you competing in Tokyo and are determined to implement our learnings from Tokyo as much as possible in order to maximise the athlete experience and ensure we have another memorable edition of the Games.

In 2022, we will also see the creation of the IOC AC 2nd Vice-Chair position, which was approved by the IOC Executive Board in December 2021. This additional position will reflect the increased contribution of the Commission in various key areas and help empower the appointed members of the AC, as the new position will be open to both elected and appointed members.

Together with my IOC AC peers, I wish you the very best for 2022 and beyond, both on and off the field of play. Stay connected with us via Athlete365, and please do get in contact with me at ac.chair@olympic.org with your feedback and questions for the Commission.

In the Olympic spirit,

Emma Terho

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