IOC Executive Board and Athletes’ Commission discuss COVID-19 countermeasures for Tokyo 2020 during annual joint meeting

The Executive Board (EB) of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the IOC Athletes’ Commission (AC) today held a virtual joint meeting to discuss various topics, including the athlete experience and COVID-19 countermeasures at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

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IOC Executive Board and Athletes’ Commission discuss COVID-19 countermeasures for Tokyo 2020 during annual joint meeting
© IOC/Greg Martin

With the health and safety of athletes being one of the key principles in the delivery of the Olympic Games, the IOC EB and AC discussed the importance of delivering the Games while preserving the athlete experience. In September, a series of measures were agreed upon by the IOC Coordination Commission and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee to make the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 fit for a post-corona world.

The possible COVID-19 countermeasures necessary to protect the health of all Tokyo 2020 participants have been grouped into seven areas: travel/country access; physical distancing; personal protective equipment/cleaning; food and beverage; testing/tracking/isolating; information provision; and vaccines. The IOC is working closely with the International Federations, National Olympic Committees and other event organisers in order to receive vital input as part of an ongoing review of the best practices and key learnings taken from the resumption of sporting events in Japan and around the world.

During today’s meeting, the Chair of the IOC AC, Kirsty Coventry, expressed the support of the Commission: “We are fully supportive that the most important point is to ensure that we can deliver the Olympic Games in a safe environment for all participants, in particular the athletes. The health and safety of athletes and Games participants has been quite rightly the key consideration every step of the way,” she said.

“We also appreciate that there is a need to be flexible in all other areas of requirements and operations, in order for the Games to be safe for everyone, and simply to allow them to take place. This means that athletes will have to be flexible, like everyone else, in their expectations regarding what would normally be in place at the Games,” Coventry added.

IOC President Thomas Bach thanked the IOC AC for the good cooperation with the IOC and said: “The IOC Athletes’ Commission is the only commission of the IOC which meets with the IOC EB directly. The athletes are part of every decision the IOC is taking by being represented on all the commissions, and also by having the Chair, Kirsty Coventry, as a full member of the IOC EB.”

IOC support to athletes

In addition to the COVID-19 countermeasures, the actions that the IOC has taken this year to support athletes during the pandemic were highlighted, following the recommendations of the International Athletes’ Forum last year, inviting the Olympic Movement to make the funding streams to all stakeholders even more transparent and to strengthen communication to athletes on this topic.

In April, as an immediate response to the needs that arose due to the postponement of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the IOC extended into 2021 the Olympic Solidarity programmes for Tokyo 2020, increasing by USD 25.3 million the budget of Olympic Solidarity allocated to NOCs for their preparations and participation in the Games next summer.

More than 1,600 athletes from 185 National Olympic Committees, as well as the refugee athletes, who are currently benefiting from the Olympic Solidarity programmes related to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, will continue to receive this support up to the Games, which will now be celebrated from 23 July to 8 August 2021.

Rule 50 consultation

The EB was also given a presentation on the Rule 50 consultation that started earlier this summer with athletes around the world, exploring innovative additional ways for athletes to express views during the Olympic Games, while respecting the Olympic spirit.

Following the IOC EB declaration in June, this initiative, led by the AC, followed the publication of the Rule 50 guidelines in January 2020, which provided more clarity on the existing opportunities for the expression of views and also included a useful Q&A.

Athlete engagement and support programmes

The AC also updated the EB on the continuous support provided to athletes in 2020 through the Athlete365 community.

Many materials, webinars and courses have been made available on several topics, including mental health, which emerged from a recent athlete survey as one of the biggest challenges faced by athletes during the pandemic.

The Athlete365 community recently passed the impressive number of more than 100,000 registered athletes, Olympians and entourage members, thereby reinforcing the IOC’s connection with the athlete community and the ability to engage with them on important issues, as well as the different programmes available to them, such as: Athlete365 Career +, the Airbnb Olympian and Paralympian Experience, the Intel mentoring programme and the P&G Athlete for Good Fund.

One project that was launched this year, and which is already a success, is the Athlete365 Business Accelerator. The two-year pilot programme that was designed in cooperation with Noble Peace Prize Laureate Prof. Yunus seeks to enhance professional, educational and life-skills opportunities for athletes. It is supported by Olympic Solidarity. Some 5,500 athletes have already taken part in the online course.

Medal reallocations

Lastly, an update was provided by the AC on the Olympic medal reallocation ceremonies organised so far in 2020.

Following a decision by the EB in May 2018, athletes now have the unique opportunity to choose the type of ceremony that they would like to have for their reallocated Olympic medal, so as to be recognised in the best way possible.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has also impacted the opportunities for ceremonies to be organised. However, two Olympic medal reallocation ceremonies were able to be held earlier this year, meaning a total of 28 ceremonies have been held overall since May 2018.

The ceremonies that took place in 2020 were in February at a Bobsleigh World Cup event, where the Latvian two-man bobsleigh team received their bronze medals and the Latvian four-man bobsleigh team received their gold medals.

Out of the 28 ceremonies held, 13 were at an NOC event, 12 at an IF event, two at a private event and one at The Olympic Museum, demonstrating that Olympic medallists have benefited from the options available to them for their achievements to be recognised in a meaningful way.