IOC AC Chair Kirsty Coventry opened the IAF 2021 by recapping the continental breakout sessions with AC members from each of the five regions.

There were presentations on the Olympic funding model and the latest support to you through our programmes, including Olympic Solidarity.

Athlete well-being also took a front seat in discussions, as a live panel spoke about mental health and fielded questions from the audience.

As the biggest IAF to date got underway, nearly 2,000 athlete representatives had registered to join moderator Jeanette Kwakye, an Olympic sprinter, IOC AC Chair Kirsty Coventry, and a host of other keynote speakers in the first-ever digital edition of the Forum. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission (AC) and also to take advantage of the fact that this Forum is being held digitally, invitations had been extended to all AC members globally, not just the AC chairs.

“We have three main objectives for the Forum: to inform, build, and discuss,” said Kirsty, who invited a member from each of the five continents to summarise their discussions at the continental breakouts in the days leading up to the main event. The breakouts resulted in three main takeaways: the importance of ensuring that ACs are effective; active engagement and close collaboration between ACs and other sporting organisations; and maximising opportunities to connect and interact with other ACs.

We have three main objectives for the Forum: to inform, build, and discuss.

 

IOC AC Chair, KIRSTY COVENTRY

IOC President Thomas Bach encouraged attendees to make an impact on the Forum.

IOC AC Vice Chair Danka Barteková then took the floor and touched on some of the most important athlete-centered initiatives from recent times. Danka shared the progress made on the key recommendations from the last IAF, in 2019, and thanked athletes worldwide for their contribution to the athlete consultation on Rule 50 and athlete expression and the Athletes’ Declaration, which continues to be adopted by sporting organisations worldwide.

Athlete support

The athlete support discussion centered on the programmes currently in place including Olympic Solidarity, the Olympic funding model and how the IOC and IOC AC support athletes directly and indirectly. After an introductory presentation, Kirsty joined James Macleod, IOC Director of Olympic Solidarity and NOC Relations, and Lana Haddad, IOC Chief Operating Officer, for an engaging and live Q&A.

The Olympic revenue solidarity sharing model ensures that athletes from all teams and corners of the globe, regardless of their sport or background, are able to benefit from the revenue generated through the Olympic Games. That’s why we call it solidarity and we continue to advocate for it.

 

IOC COO, Lana Haddad

Lana spoke about assuring universality of financial support to athletes: “The Olympic revenue solidarity sharing model ensures that athletes from all teams and corners of the globe, regardless of their sport or background, are able to benefit from the revenue generated through the Olympic Games. That’s why we call it solidarity and we continue to advocate for it.”

During the Q&A session, Lana, James, and Kirsty took questions from many athlete representatives on topics ranging from what the IOC’s financial security looks like in a post-COVID-19 pandemic world, to the support offered to the Refugee Olympic Team.

James discussed the importance of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 in making the dreams of refugee athletes come true and bringing greater awareness to the plight of 80 million refugees worldwide.

“It’s a moment to be able to look at refugees as an additional team at the Games,” he said. “It’s very important for us to be able to give them that moment and for [the refugee crisis] to be highlighted.”

Athlete well-being

The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching consequences for the world of sport, changing the way in which we prepare for competitions, gather as commissions, and even how we cope on a personal level.

In light of this, a panel featuring IOC AC and Mental Health Working Group member Abhinav Bindra, Olympic Champion Lindsey Vonn, Mali AC Chair Kady Kanouté Tounkara, World Rowing AC Chair Frida Svensson and IOC Medical and Scientific Director Dr. Richard Budgett shared their expertise and experiences with regard to athlete well-being. They also discussed best AC practices for supporting athletes during the pandemic and beyond.

“[Promoting mental health awareness] is not just about empowering the athletes, but about empowering the whole ecosystem that surrounds the athletes and creating a psychologically safe environment for athletes to train in,” said Abhinav. “The system is guilty of suddenly believing in the equation that a gold medal equals happiness. But really that equation needs to be reversed and happiness has to become the gold medal.”

“A lot of the time when you’re an athlete, everyone thinks you have everything going [for you] and that everything should be great all the time, but we have the same mental health struggles as everyone else and sometimes even more so,” added Lindsey. “I’m happy that the conversation has become more open, and I hope we can continue to destigmatise it. “

Kirsty then closed day one of the IAF 2021, by thanking all panellists and participants and reminding you all to tune in on day two to discuss Olympic Agenda 2020+5 and the upcoming Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

Make sure to join the livestream of the Day 2 discussions including a live Q&A with President Bach.

OnDemand video replay from #IAF2021 Day1

The system is guilty of suddenly believing in the equation that a gold medal equals happiness. But really that equation needs to be reversed and happiness has to become the gold medal.

 

IOC AC Member, Abhinav Bindra