Led by Beijing 2008 Olympian Kaveh Mehrabi, a former international badminton player, the IOC Athletes’ Department will now operate across four key pillars:
- support and partnerships;
- community engagement; and
- athlete communications and digital activations.
The Department, run by athletes for athletes, includes four Olympians plus a former elite athlete in a team of 20 staff. More than 10 Olympians and former elite athletes are currently working at the IOC – evidence of the unique expertise and values that athletes bring to sports organisations.
From mental health to safeguarding, career transitioning and financial opportunities, the Department, in close collaboration with other IOC departments, is working on a wide range of programmes. These are designed to support and empower athletes and Olympians throughout their sports career and beyond, and to ensure and protect their well-being, in line with Olympic Agenda 2020+5, in particular recommendations 3 and 5.
Emma Terho, Chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission (AC), commented: “The creation of the IOC Athletes’ Department has been strongly endorsed by the AC. Having a dedicated Department will further increase the IOC and IOC AC support to athletes, and will empower and strengthen athlete representation worldwide.”
Support and partnerships: making athletes’ lives better
Through Athlete365, the IOC now delivers a range of tools and services that cover essential topics for athletes, including career transition and mental health.
For example, the IOC’s #MentallyFit campaign has provided a destination where athletes can access expert-led advice on themes such as sleep and anxiety, while IOC Mental Health Working Group co-Chair Dr Claudia Reardon has delivered a webinar to the athlete community on dealing with uncertainty. Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 Olympians and Paralympians were offered 24/7 access to a Mental Health Helpline during the Games and for up to three months after, through which they could benefit from counselling sessions.
Services for athletes off the field, such as athlete career opportunities, continue to improve thanks to Athlete365 Career+ , boosted by the IOC’s extension of its collaboration with The Adecco Group. Athletes can now access the Athlete Career Portal, which provides bespoke attribute assessment tools, and browse employment opportunities through the Employment section, which was launched recently. The Athlete365 Business Accelerator programme continues to go from strength to strength, with 28 of the latest intake of Olympian entrepreneurs receiving six months’ worth of expert mentoring to help them turn their business ideas into a reality.
Complementing this, further financial opportunities for athletes have been provided through innovative programmes delivered with Worldwide Olympic Partners. For example, the IOC and IPC in partnership with Airbnb are giving athletes a grant to support them on their journey to the Games, and are providing further earning opportunities through the Airbnb Olympian & Paralympian Experiences programme.
Intel has paired employees with athletes as part of the Intel Mentoring Programme, while making educational tool LinkedIn Learning and wellbeing app Headspace available for athletes to access for free. Meanwhile, the P&G Athletes for Good programme has awarded almost USD 1 million in grants to athletes who are supporting charities linked to community impact, equality and inclusion, and environmental sustainability.
Relations and strengthening of the global network of athlete representatives
The relations team is responsible for providing support to the IOC AC, the IOC Athletes’ Entourage Commission, the worldwide network of athlete representatives and the World Olympians Association, and facilitating their communication with the athletes they represent.
These efforts include delivering administrative and technical support, calls with the global network of athlete representatives, and sharing resources with International Federation (IF) and National Olympic Committee (NOC) support personnel, to assist them in their effort to empower their ACs.
The IOC Athletes’ Department also facilitates the delivery of the international and continental athlete forums, including the 10th International Athletes’ Forum in May 2021, which was the first to be held in a virtual format and welcomed nearly 2,000 participants. In July 2022, the IOC AC will deliver an International Town Hall event to further engage with the athlete community.
Engaging with the athlete community
Engagement at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 was delivered in person through the Athlete365 Space, where athletes could make their voice heard by voting in the IOC AC election. This engagement was also supported by the PinQuest game, where athletes could learn in a gamified way about all the key topics for their sporting career, such as mental health, prevention of competition manipulation, anti-doping, safe sport and many more. At Beijing 2022, these engagement efforts led to an impressive 80.5 per cent voter turnout, and more than 60 per cent of accredited athletes played PinQuest and answered more than 250,000 questions.
The engagement and educational programmes for athletes at the Youth Olympic Games have also been transferred to the Athletes’ Department, while engagement with the athletes’ entourage has also been made a priority at the recent Olympic Games.
During Games time and in the period between the Games, athletes are engaged digitally through Athlete365 – the IOC’s official community for elite athletes and Olympians and their entourage. The Athlete365 community has reached the milestone of over 130,000 members, who are engaged through a range of content, advice, newsletters, webinars and surveys.
Athlete communications and digital activations
This suite of advice, tools and services is tied together by Athlete365, which is now being delivered in six languages: English, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese and Arabic, making it a truly global offering. The website and learning platform were relaunched in 2021 to allow for a better user experience, and the Athlete365 social media accounts now have more than 150,000 combined followers.
Popular digital activations at Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 were delivered via sign-up forms on Athlete365, including Athlete Moment, which gave athletes the opportunity to connect with their loved ones straight after their competition via video link, and Athlete365 Connect, which helped athletes receive and share their Olympic Games photos via their social media accounts.
With the IOC Athletes’ Department continuing to evolve in 2022, athletes and Olympians can look forward to an improved offering of advice, tools and services in the future, designed to meet them exactly where they are in their sporting or non-sporting career.