The main topics of the call included anti-doping, with presentations from two senior members of WADA, and updates on the reorganisation of the Tokyo 2020 Games, covering qualification, logistics and more.
IOC Chief Operating Officer Lana Haddad explained the Olympic Solidarity funding model and how IOC revenues are generated and distributed.
The IOC AC also answered questions from athlete representatives on several topics such as NOC AC grants and the latest on COVID-19.
Foreword by Kirsty Coventry
I would like to start by thanking everyone who attended the global call on Friday 8 May. It is vital that we continue to communicate and receive your feedback, to continuously improve our direct engagement with you.
We recently shared with you a letter from the IOC President titled “Olympism and Coronavirus” – which is intended to initiate a debate on “the challenges we are facing and the potential of the opportunities we have”. As the IOC AC, we would love to hear from you on this and also encourage you to send your ideas directly to the President and the IOC as outlined in the letter.
We are launching a series of webinars to support athletes. The first exclusive webinar was with the inspiring Eliud Kipchoge, who shared how simplicity is the key to his success and the steps he is taking to refocus in light of Covid-19. The next webinar is with Norwegian skier, Aksel Lund Svindal. You can sign up on Athlete365, and it is taking place at 2 p.m. CEST on 25 May 2020. Please share this with your fellow athletes.
Thank you to all the athletes who have been in touch over the last weeks – it is vitally important for us that we represent you and make your voice heard. Please continue to share with us any of your thoughts and ideas. During the last call you asked for a directory of athletes’ commissions, and we are happy to say this is now live and can be found here – please email us if you would like your AC details and email address to be added.
Once again, I urge you all to stay safe, to keep your family safe, and to reach out to us with any questions you may have.
WADA and the International Testing Agency (ITA) joined the call to provide an update on the investigation into Russia and share the latest news on anti-doping procedures in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Günter Younger, WADA’s Director of Intelligence and Investigations, updated athlete representatives about the ongoing investigation into Operation LIMS and how it affects the anti-doping processes of other countries, while Stuart Kemp, Deputy COO of WADA, explained the impact of the global pandemic on anti-doping. Athletes will still be subject to testing where restrictions have been lifted, and national anti-doping organisation should be ready for when restrictions are lifted in other countries. WADA also continue to monitor where testing is and is not currently ongoing.
Ben Cohen, Director General of the ITA, informed the attendees that the pre-Games testing guidelines will be issued and recommence around September.
The WADA updates can be found here.
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
Preparations continue for the Games next summer, with working groups having been established to look at planning and delivery. Maintaining the same venues, competition schedule, Olympic Villages and athlete services has been prioritised and confirmation of these is the immediate focus.
For qualification, 57% of the athletes’ quota has been allocated and these places remain in place with the respective NOC and/or athlete. In the last week, updated qualification systems have been finalised for 26 sports/disciplines, with the remainder coming very shortly.
IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell confirmed that the IOC urges IFs to remain cautious when considering dates for qualification events. Health regulation and restriction in each country, full preparation time for all athletes (including training) and other factors such as international travel availability and cost are just some of the considerations to take into account.
The IOC also continues to communicate with IFs and NOCs to ensure compliance with WHO guidelines which are centrally available to athlete on Athlete365. Additionally IOC maintains dialogue over financial support to IFs and NOCs to enable them to continue their sports, their activities and their support to their athletes. IOC Press Release can be found here.
Olympic Movement Funding
Invited by the IOC AC, IOC COO Lana Haddad presented the solidarity funding model of the IOC and the Olympic Movement. She said:
We put a lot of effort to ensure that everyone has access to accurate and credible information. We do our best to communicate with full transparency about how our revenue is generated through the celebration of the Olympic Games and how, through our solidarity distribution model, we are able to support the development of sports globally from grassroot to high level athletes.
Just to name a few examples, we have developed infographics and simple content to explain how our financial model works. These are all available on the Athlete365 platform. For those of you who were at the International Athletes’ Forum last year in Lausanne, you would remember that I also presented this in detail at the Forum.
As you know, our annual reports are publicly available, and everyone can see how the revenue is generated and how the 90% of it is distributed. The other 10% goes to running operational costs of the IOC. These reports have been audited externally to the highest international standard.
Sometimes it is said that athletes receive little benefit from the Olympic revenues and our solidarity funding model is even compared with the professional leagues in the U.S.
Please allow me to focus our discussion today on providing you with some context on the importance of our funding model. It is important to understand this context when considering various topical issues relate to Olympic funding, such as Rule 40, direct compensation of athletes, and similar issues.
I’d like to provide you with clarity and with our rationales in relation to these questions. Hopefully, my explanation and information will also help you in your discussions with your peers and others.
I would like to breakdown the importance of our solidarity funding model in 4 key areas. We should keep these in mind when we discuss these issues with athletes or indeed anyone who wants to learn more about our movement.
1. First point is that IOC is a not-for-profit organisation and as a value-based organisation, it is supporting all through solidarity models
First, and probably the most fundamental point, is that our whole structure and movement is built on a “Solidarity model”.
Our model is not comparable with the franchise model of professional leagues, which are for profit organizations. Their revenue generation and revenue distribution models are based on for profit models to benefit one sport operating in one country.
In contrast, our solidarity model enables us to contribute to the development of a large number of different sports, around the world and over the long term. In fact, we directly support 40 Olympic Sports and 206 NOCs.
If we were to build the Olympic Games based on a for profit model, we would have a totally different event. If we want to go down that road, the Olympic Games would be an event with only a few sports which generate the most revenue and would not have athletes from the 206 NOCs. I think we would all agree that such an event would not be an Olympic Games.
This is a very important point that most of the time gets overlooked during discussions, when people compare our model to the for profit organisations and professional leagues.
At the same time, we should also note that it is not the professional leagues who pay athletes directly but the clubs for which the athletes are playing for. In our case the support takes a similar route. We support the NOCs on a national level and the IFs on a sports level and they support you, the athletes, in many ways.
Athletes are participating in the Olympic Games as members of their Olympic team and these teams are participating in the commercial success of the Games.
As you might remember, following the call in the International Athletes’ Forum last year, the Olympic Summit 2019 also called for International Federations and National Olympic Committees to make it even more transparent how they support their athletes, both directly and indirectly. The programmes include Anti-Doping efforts, medical assistance, harassment and abuse prevention, career programmes, coaching and others.
As you are aware, we invest significantly to the development of sports and athletes globally through sharing revenue with IFs and NOCs.
Through the work of these organisations at the grassroot level, different sports are developed globally and big stars like yourselves are born. I am sure every athlete starts sport in one way or another through some sort of grassroot activity on a local level.
What the professional leagues do is that they only benefit from the top of the pyramid by hiring the best athletes for their commercial interests without investing back into sport. So, in fact, even many of the professional leagues and for-profit events are relying on the Olympic solidarity model to produce the stars so they can benefit from them.
The question is if the IOC and the Olympic Movement does not invest in development of the sport, who will? None of the for-profit organisations will do because it is not profitable.
They only invest where there is a return on investment. Our only funding partners here would be the local governments and the support some of them provide, but as we know this is significantly different from country to country and many of the NOCs and National Federations fully rely on support from the IOC or private sector. This is so visible in the current environment which I will explain later.
2. This brings me to my second point which is about the development of sports globally.
3. This brings me to my third point which is about collective bargaining and compensation
We want to support you, the athletes, through the existing system to the best of our abilities. You are at the core of what we are doing. But athletes are not employed by the IOC and should not be considered workers like in professional leagues.
Our solidarity structure is built to ensure all athletes, from every country, in a vast range of sports, can receive support to train and practice their sport through our IF funding, and compete at the Games as a member of their national team, thanks to our NOC funding.
Now, let’s imagine, if the Olympic Movement had to conduct collective bargaining for athletes to be compensated by the IOC for participation at the Games.
If we go down that road, then we need to remember that we will have to start calculating the commercial value proposition of each athlete, sport and team. It would not be a simple math and we could not just divide X million dollar by 11,000 athletes for the summer Olympic Games and 3,000 athletes for the Winter Olympic Games.
You know better than I do that in the professional leagues and clubs the value of each athlete is not the same and they are all compensated differently. This is not in line with our mission and doesn’t represent the Olympic values.
One thing is for sure, the majority of athletes would not benefit from such a model and, due to the diversion of funds, could even face a reduction in the basic services such as free transport, food, accommodation and medical services at the Olympic Games, to mention a few.
The reason for this is that we can only spend the money once, so if we should give it directly to athletes competing at the Games, we must take it out from our investment into the overall development of sports globally, or the investment we make directly into delivery and staging of the Olympic Games.
The Games provide the platform for Olympians to showcase their excellence in front of a global media audience and then hopefully turn that visibility into profit for themselves through individual sponsorship. By the way, as you know, our investment into the delivery of the Games alone is about 50% of our total revenue.
But let’s imagine that we should do that collective bargaining and reduce our funding to NOCs, IFs and OCOGs and provide direct funding to athletes. That means the solidarity model is broken and only a very small percentage of elite athletes would benefit.
For most international events outside the Olympic Games, many athletes would have to dig into their own pockets to make their way to the championship and cover their basic expenses.
The ones that would suffer the most are athletes coming from the developing countries and even many from developed countries. That’s why we call it the solidarity model for which we will continue to argue.
If the Coronavirus crisis has reminded us about one thing, it is about the critical role of the IOC and the Olympic funding model in the movement. This crisis has reminded us that all of our stakeholders and more precisely the International Federations and NOCs would turn to us for support during such difficult times.
Sometimes people are asking me why do we need to have a risk management framework, why does the IOC need to have so much reserves?
Unfortunately, now through this reality of the pandemic and the financial crisis it has caused, I can tangibly demonstrate that if we had not taken the measures we took in the past decades to secure the financial independence and stability of the IOC, we would have not been in the position to support and also secure the survival of our stakeholders in our movement and the continuous support to you, the athletes.
To bring my last point to life, please allow me to give you two of our most recent examples in the context of preparation of athletes and NOCs for the Tokyo Games which is now going to be staged in 2021:
To start with, one of the first thing we did after the decision of the postponement of the Tokyo Games is that we extended the Olympic Solidarity scholarship for all athletes who are benefiting from this programme. For you reference, there are more than 1,600 athletes from 185 NOCs who benefit directly from this scholarship programme.
The second part of this example is the additional funds that we have made available relating to exceptional Games-related costs incurred by NOCs due to the postponement of the Tokyo Games. This fund will allow NOCs to sustain additional costs that might occur in the lead-up to the Tokyo Games, which is now going to be staged in 2021.
Just these two examples represent a total of 25.3 million US dollars additional investment from the IOC into athlete, teams and NOCs for their preparation for the Tokyo Games which would have not been possible without our risk management framework and Olympic solidarity model.
These are the four points I wanted to highlight in the context of our revenue distribution model. We count on your support to help us inform your peers and public about these points. Everyone is totally entitled to their views, but our position is clear.
We want to ensure that everyone has the full picture, and nobody makes up his or her opinion only based on the populist messages which is the easier path unfortunately. We count on you to relay this message.
As Albert Einstein said, “life is like riding a bicycle, in order to keep balance, you need to keep moving forward.”
Kirsty, thank you again for allowing me to join your meeting today. And thank you to all of you for allowing me to join you again virtually and look forward to seeing you face to face in Tokyo. I am available for any question you might have.
Infographic: Olympic Movement Funding Model