Keeping Olympians safe and healthy as the Olympic Winter Games kick off is not just a matter of sports medicine. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is working hard in the Republic of Korea to provide a safe, respectful and enjoyable environment that supports athlete well-being and protects their rights at all times.
A clear protective structure for safeguarding athletes will be in place – for the first time ever at the Olympic Winter Games – in PyeongChang. Participants will be able to report any incident of harassment or abuse via the IOC Safeguarding Officer. In turn, the Safeguarding Officer will handle each report through a confidential procedure linked to local law enforcement agencies and relevant disciplinary channels. Offices will be operating in both Olympic Villages in the mountain and coastal clusters for the duration of the Games. To reinforce athletes' right to safe sport, all educational material around reporting incidents and what constitutes harassment and abuse is being made available across the Olympic Villages.
Like the fight against doping, the efforts do not start and finish at PyeongChang 2018. The IOC also provides detailed guidance and resources to other organisations in the Olympic Movement to help protect athletes. Athletes themselves made the need for this clear at the International Athletes' Forum in 2015. In November 2017, the IOC launched a toolkit to assist International Sports Federations (IFs) and National Olympic Committees (NOCs) in developing and implementing athlete-safeguarding policies and procedures. Building on existing guidelines and medical consensus statements, this step-by-step guide focuses on organisational and competition-specific safeguarding policies. It is reinforced with key research, recommendations and case studies across the Olympic Movement, and most importantly it offers a solution-based approach.
To ensure that athletes, their entourage and other individuals understand the core components of this sensitive topic, a free bite-size IOC Athlete Safeguarding e-learning course was also created to complement the toolkit, and was launched on the IOC Athlete Learning Gateway.
Preventing injury and illness
Safe sport means not only the prevention of harassment and abuse, but also making sporting competitions safe and minimising the risk of injuries. Keeping athletes injury free and healthy during the Games requires extensive preparation and infrastructure.
As has been the case for past editions of the Games, during PyeongChang 2018 the IOC medical and scientific research group will conduct a comprehensive daily surveillance study that collects invaluable information about injuries and illnesses of athletes to assess risk factors, establish prevention strategies and allow for immediate action on-site if needed.
The collected data will then be shared with the NOCs and IFs post-Games so as to help in the long term with the development and implementation of effective prevention strategies to minimise the risk for athletes at all levels, and in all sporting competitions. The process behind the surveillance and prevention work is built to constantly improve and incorporate new data as time goes on, so as to construct the most innovative sporting facilities for each competition and organise world-class healthcare and medical treatment services.
Over the two weeks of competitions in PyeongChang, the IOC will also make the most of having NOC team doctors, physiotherapists and healthcare providers in one location by organising several symposia and workshops on sports medicine and sports physiotherapy, in order to share the most recent methods and knowledge to provide the most effective medical advice and to ensure the best possible care for the athletes.