Kirsty points to the expansion of IOC support to athletes and the strengthening of the global network of athlete representatives as the major highlights of the past year.

She also reflects on the success of the biggest-ever International Athletes’ Forum and the measures that resulted from it.

Kirsty’s term will end in August at Tokyo 2020, when a new IOC AC Chair and four new members will be elected.

Dear Athletes,

2019 was a ground-breaking year for our community.

There may have been no edition of the Olympic Games and no Olympic medals at stake, but the global network of athlete representatives has emerged stronger and more united as a result of a number of initiatives and events, led by the IOC Athletes’ Commission, which are designed to empower athlete representatives and support athletes.

International Athletes’ Forum 

Our most important event last year, and one which really gave us a lot of momentum, was the International Athletes’ Forum in April. The 2019 edition was the biggest-ever gathering of athlete representatives, with more than 350 athlete representatives – including, for the first time, representatives from National Olympic Committees (NOCs) – joining us in Lausanne for three days of constructive dialogue that resulted in nine key recommendations designed to strengthen athlete representation in the Olympic Movement.

The headline recommendation was that USD 10 million in direct IOC funding per Olympiad would be provided to NOC Athletes’ Commissions – and we have already delivered on our promise. From now, your NOC can apply for a USD 10,000 yearly Olympic Solidarity grant to fund your Commission’s activities, or to access the funding required to organise elections and establish a commission. We will continue to provide other means of support to the AC network through a suite of resources and best-practice examples.

We also organised a landmark discussion on mental health at the Forum, and we continued this important conversation with a campaign around World Mental Health Day in October, with the IOC Mental Health Working Group now looking at ways to provide greater support to athletes.

New partnerships, new opportunities 

This exciting initiative is not the only one that we launched in 2019. As a result of several new partnerships, Athlete365 is now making a tangible difference to athletes’ lives around the world in a number of ways.

Most recently, we partnered with Airbnb to provide you with the opportunity to create new revenue streams. Through Airbnb Olympic Experiences, you (athletes and Olympians) can get paid to do what you love and share it with others. Register your interest in becoming an Experience host here.

We also launched the Athlete365 Business Accelerator last year. Through this programme, the result of an innovative partnership with the Yunus Sports Hub and funded by Olympic Solidarity, we have offered you a free, 10-hour expert-led online course on entrepreneurship, with the opportunity to attend a workshop held in your continent to enhance your business skills. The first two workshops have already been held in the USA and New Zealand, with great success. They were attended by a combined total of 23 athlete-entrepreneurs from eight countries, with standout participants – such as Mexican former triathlete Eligio Cervantes – eligible to receive on-going mentoring. Keep an eye out for more workshops this year as we expand the programme.

Career transition, dual career and athlete employability were the key focuses at the 2019 Athlete365 Career+ Forum on 3 and 4 November, as 100 participants from 47 countries headed to Lake Placid in New York. The main objective of the Forum was identifying how Athlete365 Career+ can best help you to transition from your sporting career into the wider workplace. Discussions focused on how the various stakeholders involved can contribute to achieving this objective and best utilise the unique skills that you can bring to the labour market. Through our partnership with The Adecco Group, last year we also offered you a free two-hour career advice session with a recruitment expert. Additionally, delivered with Adecco, 43 Outreach workshops were held in 2019 by 27 NOCs and 2 IFs, reaching 1,693 athletes.

Promoting athletes’ rights 

Throughout 2019, we also supported some of the more vulnerable athlete groups in our global community.

For example, in the wake of the suspension of AIBA’s recognition by the IOC, we have taken the lead on communicating with boxers in the build-up to Tokyo 2020 by launching Athlete365 Boxing and In Your Corner, the boxing-exclusive portal on the road to Tokyo. In collaboration with the IOC Boxing Task Force, we created an Athlete Ambassadors Group to liaise with boxers and promote the athletes’ voice throughout this process.

2019 also saw athletes choose their IOC medal reallocation ceremonies, the result of an IOC AC initiative that gave athletes the opportunity to decide what their reallocation ceremony would look like. This has been documented in a recent Olympic Channel series, Take the Podium, giving a voice and an audience to those who have previously been denied their rightful ceremonies.

These initiatives have been underpinned by the Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration. Last year was about implementing the Athletes’ Declaration, which was launched in 2018, among NOCs and International Federations – with World Rowing presenting a best-practice example of how to do this at the International Athletes’ Forum. This process will continue into 2020, and we recently appointed two new members to our Steering Committee – Tim Lodge and Douwe de Vries – to complement and add fresh ideas to the existing membership.

The IOC AC has been representing the voice of the athletes at all Coordination Commission meetings held in 2019, for each edition of the Olympic Games (Tokyo 2020, Beijing 2022 and Paris 2024) and the Youth Olympic Games (Lausanne 2020 and Dakar 2022), as well as the Evaluation Commission for selecting the host for the Olympic Winter Games 2026. AC members have also attended numerous meetings with various stakeholders throughout the year, such as the WADA Athlete Committee, Foundation Board and Executive Committee meetings, the WADA Symposium, the EU Sport Forum, the Consensus Meeting on Mental Health and the Esports Forum, ensuring that the athletes’ viewpoint is represented in key topics and decisions in the Olympic Movement.

Stronger together 

Last year, we held quarterly conference calls and consultations with athletes to discuss the most pressing athlete issues, including Rule 40, Rule 50, inclusion and non-discrimination based on gender identity, and anti-doping and the Russian WADA case. As a result of this regular communication, the global network of athlete representatives has never been stronger or better informed and connected, and is in a strong position to continue to advocate for further progress in 2020.

In 2019 there were also two continental Athletes’ Forums, held in Oceania and Europe and funded by Olympic Solidarity, to bring athlete representatives together to discuss important topics. During these Forums, athletes were encouraged to share their experiences and actively discuss how they could do more to help the athletes in their own countries and engage with the continental Athletes’ Commissions and IOC AC.

“Athlete-Centred Sport” was the theme of the IF Forum 2019, which took place in Lausanne last October and brought together sports leaders from around the world to explore the game-changing benefits of placing athletes at the heart of their strategies.

Effective engagement

Building on the Athlete365 Engagement Strategy, we also engaged with 12,300 athletes and entourage members in person at 15 international competitions and continental games last year, including the European Games in Minsk (Belarus), the Pan-American Games in Lima (Peru), the Pacific Games in Samoa, the All Africa Games in Morocco and the World Beach Games in Doha (Qatar), gathering feedback on a number of key issues.

Looking ahead

All roads lead to Tokyo 2020, when my term will come to an end and we will elect a new IOC AC Chair along with four new members. We were recently delighted to announce the full list of 30 candidates for that IOC Athletes’ Commission election – representing 30 countries and 19 summer sports – and I can’t wait to see the energy and ideas that the four members you elect will bring to our Commission. The large number of high-quality candidates demonstrates the value of the work and involvement of athlete representatives, and the interest athletes have in being involved in shaping the Olympic Movement.

I hope you share my excitement for the year ahead, and I wish you all the very best of luck with your sporting and non-sporting goals. Should you have any feedback or questions for our Commission, please feel free to contact us at

In the Olympic spirit,

Kirsty Coventry