How the Athletes’ Commission network ensures every athlete’s voice is heard

Athletes’ views and opinions are involved in every aspect of decision-making within the Olympic Movement. An integral part of the work of the IOC Athletes’ Commission (IOC AC) and its Chair, Kirsty Coventry, involves maintaining a regular communications channel with athletes’ commissions all over the world. The network will gather in Lausanne for the International Athletes’ Forum from 13 to 15 April 2019.

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How the Athletes’ Commission network ensures every athlete’s voice is heard

Athletes’ Commissions network across all NOCs and all sports

This network comprises individual athletes’ commissions for every sporting federation involved in Summer and Winter sports, and for NOCs across the world. In addition, there are continental athletes’ commissions, as well as separate commissions for the local organising committee for each Olympic Games, and the World Anti-Doping Agency. One of the roles of the IOC Athletes’ Commission is to facilitate communication with this network, and obtain feedback on subjects ranging from potential new initiatives for supporting the holistic development of athletes to key issues within the sporting world, such as anti-doping regulations, safeguarding and mental health.

Athletes successfully lobbied for a safeguarding officer during the Games

Of course, the major role of the Athletes’ Commission network is to advocate the welfare and opinions of athletes during the Olympic Games. For example, as a result of discussions at the 7th International Athletes’ Forum, the network was influential in supporting the IOC in the implementation of safeguarding policies, including having safeguarding officers during the Games to whom athletes are able to reach out to seek advice and support and report anonymously any concerns regarding any sort of abuse, harassment or mental health problems.

Shaping the Olympic Village based on athletes’ feedback

In addition, the network is heavily involved in discussions regarding the main organisational issues that will directly affect athletes during the course of each Games. Athlete representatives on the local organising committee work with the IOC Athletes’ Commission on all matters ranging from travel times to venues. In recent years, the network has also played a key role in the evolution of the Olympic Village during the Games and enhancing the athletes’ experience.

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© Getty Images

Increased support for career transition

Away from the Games, the network has been instrumental in transforming the wishes of athletes for increased support to help them transition to a new career post-retirement into concrete action plans and projects, such as Athlete365 Career+, as well as the Athlete365 Business Accelerator.

Feedback requested prior to sensitive decisions

The network has also proven effective regarding important decisions, such as the reinstatement of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA). Athletes have a vote in the WADA Executive Committee and, ahead of this, athletes’ commissions were contacted all over the world, asking for feedback, which was then evaluated.

Athlete’s Rights and Responsibility Declaration historic achievement

One of the biggest achievements of the network has been the historic Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration, which was adopted by the IOC Session in October 2018. There was a concrete request from athletes to have their rights set out and preserved, and so the biggest survey across athletes’ commissions, with 4,292 responses, was carried out across all the sports on the Olympic and Paralympic programmes. The document was shaped thanks to their ideas, opinions and feedback.

Representation of active athletes in all Athletes’ Commissions is crucial

The Athletes’ Commission network will undoubtedly continue to play a vital role in sports movement decision-making, and one of the crucial aspects of its successful evolution is the presence of active athletes throughout the commissions. Ms Danka Barteková herself (Vice-Chair of the IOC AC) is a case in point, combining her work on the IOC Athletes’ Commission with training for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

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© Getty Images

“I think that when athletes are still competing, it’s a great benefit,” she says. “I’m going to the Games, and if there are any issues, I want to know. As an active athlete, I understand and appreciate the importance of the decisions on athletes’ lives and the impact these decisions have. That’s why it is so meaningful for me to be involved, and why I have decided to dedicate my time to this work, and contribute to the positive work being done to support athletes’ well-being. It is our role to support athletes and their development, no matter where they come from and which sport they practise.”