The Athlete Townhall brought together Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 Olympians and athlete representatives in an online setting.
On day two, Olympians provided inspiration for how you can use your platform to give back.
If you weren’t able to make it to the Athlete Townhall, you can catch up with the highlights at our dedicated page.
Following a successful first day which featured an exclusive Q&A with IOC President Thomas Bach, the second day of the Athlete Townhall, moderated by British Olympian Jeanette Kwakye OLY, was headlined by a panel discussion with an inspiring group of athletes about how they use their status as Olympians to deliver impactful work in their communities.
The panel included the Republic of Korea’s Seung-min Ryu OLY, Olympic champion in table tennis and IOC Athletes’ Commission (AC) first Vice-Chair; Pau Gasol Sáez, the Spanish basketball star, two-time Olympic medallist and IOC AC member; New Zealand’s Eliza McCartney, an Olympic pole vault medallist and environmental activist; Canadian bobsleigh athlete and P&G Athletes for Good recipient Cynthia Appiah OLY; and Tonga’s Pita Taufatofua, an Olympian in cross-country skiing and taekwondo and an IOC Believe in Sport Ambassador.
If we work together as a team, there’s no question that what you want to accomplish is going to be much bigger.
Pau is a UNICEF Ambassador who also has his own foundation, the Gasol Foundation, and at Tokyo 2020 was elected to the IOC Athletes’ Commission. He spoke passionately about giving back.
“What drove me is the realisation of the type of impact that I could have on the world, especially in vulnerable communities, and of what I could do with my success as an athlete. This success translated and transformed into a positive impact into the community,” Pau explained.
“It’s always going to be that much more impactful if we bring our voices together,” he added about his work with the IOC AC. “If we work together as a team, there’s no question that what you want to accomplish is going to be much bigger.”
Become a sustainability or community champion
As well as being an Olympic medallist for New Zealand in pole vault, Eliza is an environmental activist driven to educate others on the importance of sustainability in everyday life. She explained to the Townhall audience how she has been using her profile to collaborate with brands around environmental causes.
“I’ve worked hard to shift the brands and the organisations I’ve been working with over the years to those that are doing amazing things in the sustainability space,” Eliza said. “I’m very up-front about wanting to make a difference, and I’m very happy to work with those people. All of that together, you end up being a role model to your community and your country. It’s starting to grow and I’ve absolutely loved it. It’s made me feel like I’ve had a positive impact.”
Another athlete who has made a positive impact is three-time Olympian Pita, who joined the panel to discuss his inspirational awareness-raising and crowdfunding initiatives in his home country of Tonga, which was hit by a devastating tsunami in early 2022.
“I set up a fundraiser and did 112 interviews in two weeks,” he explained. “So far we have managed to send half-a-million kilograms of food, and we’ve replaced close to 10 per cent of all the boats that the tsunami destroyed – which is an important mode of transport for children in my country to travel to school. We’re continuing that process, and being an Olympian has given me the courage to do this.”
Exclusive advice, services and tools for athletes
An earlier session had outlined the various strands of support available to you through the IOC and Athlete365, focused on helping you thrive in all aspects of your lives.
Joining this panel was beach volleyball Olympian Lina Taylor, who has been sharing her passion for sport and earning money through the Airbnb Olympian & Paralympian Experiences platform, hosting an Experience called “Go for Gold”, which she now runs for corporate companies. Lina delivered a 15-minute version of this Airbnb Experience to the Townhall participants, each of whom also received a free USD 30 voucher to spend on an Airbnb Experience of their choosing.
Other programmes available to support your life outside sport were also highlighted. Canadian Summer and Winter Olympian Oluseyi Smith – announced on day one of the Townhall as one of the newly-appointed members of the IOC AC – joined Lina alongside Costa Rican long-distance runner Gabriela Traña and Athlete365 Career+ Educator Carlos Santiago, who offered insights into their experiences with Athlete365.
“The Athlete365 Business Accelerator helped me open my mind,” said Gabriela. “It gave me the ideas to impact lives and reach more people through my training and consultation in nutrition. Talking with people from the Business Accelerator, you feel people supporting you all the time, and it’s a good opportunity for growth.”
The session also announced that Worldwide Olympic Partner Allianz will be hosting a virtual career conference for athletes on 27 September. You can sign up here.
It was a really great experience to come together with all our Olympians and AC members. [There were] many great moments and a feeling of community.
Focus on mental health
The panel addressed athlete mental health too, with IOC AC member Abhinav Bindra, who is the IOC Mental Health Working Group’s athlete representative, delivering an inspiring message to the Townhall participants via video.
“As much as we glorify athletes’ physical achievements and resilience, we must bear in mind the costs,” he explained. “Your mind is just as important as your body, and we have to keep the conversation going.”
First-ever Athlete Town Hall wraps up with strong sense of community
Wrapping up the two-day event, IOC AC Chair Emma Terho OLY reflected on a fruitful series of discussions, which provided the opportunity for the global athlete community to unite after Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022.
“It was a really great experience to come together with all our Olympians and AC members,” she said. “[There were] many great moments and a feeling of community. We received a lot of feedback throughout the sessions, and this is exactly what we are looking for as a Commission.”
If you weren’t able to make it to the Athlete Town Hall, you can catch up with the highlights at our dedicated page.