Keeping the Olympic Games unique

The Olympic Games are the world’s foremost sporting event, and keeping them unique is an important part of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ’s Olympic Agenda 2020, the strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic Movement. The IOC Session’s half-time assessment of Olympic Agenda 2020 in Lima showed just how this strategy is ensuring that the Olympic Games are remaining relevant and unique in an ever-changing world.

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Keeping the Olympic Games unique
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One Games host that has already taken advantage of Olympic Agenda 2020 is Tokyo 2020. Olympian and Executive Director of Sport at Tokyo 2020 Koji Murofushi spoke about how Olympic Agenda 2020 was helping his organisation deliver a better experience for the athletes at the Games. He said: “Tokyo 2020 is more committed than ever to successfully engaging with all athletes at the 2020 Games. The athletes' experience is the key to the success of the Games in Tokyo. I am delighted that the IOC’s strategic direction on the central importance of the athletes’ experience is fully aligned with Tokyo 2020’s vision to create a stage where the athletes can perform at their best.” He continued: “Olympic Agenda 2020 strengthens the role of the athletes, helps us to build stronger ties with the athletes and will help us find the best way of delivering a Games that works for the athletes.”

Toshiro Muto, CEO of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, highlighted two areas where Tokyo had been able to benefit massively. Up first was the venue masterplan review, which saw Olympic Agenda 2020 fitting perfectly with Tokyo’s plans. Muto commented: “While venues for 11 sports were relocated, 60 per cent of the competition venues will now use existing facilities, a significant increase from the previous figure of 40 per cent.” More venues were moved out of the city centre, which will allow the Japanese organisers to “share the excitement of the Games with more people across the country.” Second was the sports programme, to which Tokyo 2020 was able to add events in new sports. This caused a big interest from the public and, according to Muto, will make the Tokyo Games “more useful, more urban and it will include more women athletes than ever before.”

One International Federation (IF) that has embraced Olympic Agenda 2020 is World Rowing (FISA). Its President, Olympian Jean-Christophe Rolland, noted that it had already played a role for FISA in Tokyo, as Recommendation 13, which aims to maximise synergies with other Olympic Movement stakeholders, was “already put into practice with the situation for the rowing and canoe‐kayak venue for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020 and we are proud to have contributed to finding solutions, reducing costs and meeting the needs of all the engaged parties.”

And it’s no different for the Winter Federations, as International Ski Federation (FIS) General Secretary and Olympian Sarah Lewis pointed out: “For the Games management as a result of Olympic Agenda 2020, the role of the IFs is now better defined. This also brings in a level of consistency for the Organising Committees across the sports and disciplines, and for each edition of the Games.” She continued: “This in no way stifles the development of local expertise as part of the workforce, as it is a key objective of the IFs to support and assist with the training of new experts and officials for future events in the organising country, in order to serve as another legacy of the Games. The process for the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, with the Winter IFs actively supporting the Games management, is already in place and activities are well underway.”

The Candidate Cities have also benefited, and the new process was fully supported by the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, following the election of the host cities for 2024 and 2028, who said: “I think that what President Bach proposed with the support of the IOC has been quite novel. At the same time, it has enabled us to build trust with the constituents. We have been able together to begin something that will allow us today to come not only with a victory, but also with a reflexion that is quite intense and strong on what the Olympic Games can bring about to each of the cities.” Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles added: “We were told all these myths about what this process was supposed to be. I was told this was going to be a very inflexible IOC and what we experienced was tremendous flexibility as shown today. We were told if we read what’s going on that this process is tainted. It was clean and clear. We were told that it would be very demanding and that you’d have to be super ambitious. Instead it was cooperative and collaborative.” 

With Olympic scholarships now extended in duration from two to three years and dedicated assistance now provided to athletes who find themselves in refugee situations, IOC Member and Olympian Kirsty Coventry was pleased to report that direct athlete support through the Olympic Solidarity World Programmes now amounted to 42 per cent of the total budget.

This rises to 58 per cent when coupled with programmes available to coaches who support athletes and is directly linked to Olympic Agenda 2020. Olympic Agenda 2020 also touches on important areas of the Games like sustainability, the sports programme and gender equality.

The IOC Session at the Lima Convention Centre in Lima, Peru Louis Vega, VP of DOW Chemicals Company
© IOC/Greg Martin

HSH Prince Albert II, who competed at five Olympic Games, spoke about how the IOC’s new sustainability strategy is “included in all aspects of the planning and staging of the Olympic Games.” He continued: “For example: sustainability was addressed early and as a strategic priority during the 2024 Candidature Procedure through dedicated sustainability sessions.” This strategy has also had a bearing on the Olympic Games themselves, with Louis Vega from Dow, the Official Carbon Partner of the IOC, explaining how, during the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 and Olympic Games Rio 2016, a comprehensive carbon mitigation programme was implemented that saw the Games fully compensate their carbon footprints.

Another direct outcome of Olympic Agenda 2020 has been the inclusion of five new sports in the Olympic programme for Tokyo 2020 (surfing, sport climbing, skateboarding, baseball/softball and karate) and several new disciplines, including mixed-gender disciplines such as 3x3 basketball, an archery mixed team event, triathlon mixed team relay and a judo mixed team, among others. The result is a more youthful, urban and gender-balanced programme. Indeed, with 48.8 per cent, there will be a record participation of women at Tokyo 2020. This is directly in line with Recommendation 11, “Foster gender equality”, and will see gender equality achieved for the first time in an Olympic event when 1,981 women and 1,981 men participate in the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018.