17 Jun 2022 – Athlete empowerment and athlete representation – not just on the field of play, but also beyond the athletes’ careers – are crucial elements for ensuring good governance in sporting organisations. Participating in the EU Sports Forum session entitled “Empowering Athletes”, International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes’ Commission (AC) Chair Emma Terho highlighted the action taken by the IOC to engage with athletes and guarantee that they have a key role in decisions that affect them.
“Bringing together the international sporting community and representatives from the EU Member States in this Forum allows us to highlight the many benefits of empowering athletes,” said Terho. “The values, determination and discipline that are necessary to participate in large sporting events are only a few of the major assets these athletes can bring to the decision-making table. The IOC has taken this into account and ensured that athletes have a key role to play and are involved in its decision-making process.”
Seats for athletes at the decision-making table
As the primary link between the athletes and the IOC, the IOC AC empowers athletes, the majority of whom are elected by their peers, to ensure that the athletes’ viewpoint is considered in all aspects of the IOC’s work. The IOC AC Chair also sits on the IOC’s Executive Board in order to put forward the athletes’ perspective and ensure any impact on athletes is considered before decisions are taken.
The IOC AC is also in regular contact with a global network of athletes’ commissions from National Olympic Committees (NOCs), International Federations (IFs) and other Olympic Movement stakeholders. Through this open discussion and engagement, the IOC AC not only integrates the views of athletes all around the world, but can also provide them with the most up-to-date information on a variety of topics.
Providing support to empower athletes around the world
To strengthen the influence of athletes in local contexts and across the Olympic Movement, the IOC, through Olympic Solidarity, has created an annual grant available to NOCs for activities focused on supporting athletes. For NOCs that do not already have an AC, this grant can be used to help set one up and put athletes’ voices right at the heart of sporting development. For those with established ACs, these grants are provided to support programmes that are specifically designed by and for athletes, including athlete career transition programmes, education workshops and mental health support.
About the EU Sport Forum
Organised annually by the European Commission, the EU Sport Forum is a central meeting point between sports organisations and representatives of the EU Institutions and Member States for them to exchange views on the current and future sports policies.
This years’ Forum theme was “European Sport: fair, inclusive and fit for a sustainable future”. Over the course of two days, participants covered current priorities in the field of European sport, with an emphasis on inclusiveness, equality and solidarity as key principles and values of the European sports model; the green transition of the sports sector, in particular the promotion of sustainable sports infrastructure; good governance in sport, with a focus on athlete empowerment; and the protection and promotion of well-being, notably of young people, through sport.
Meeting in Lille, France, the Forum kicked off with a high-level panel discussion on the theme of “European Sport: fair, inclusive and fit for the future”, moderated by Mariya Gabriel, EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth. Representing the sports movement, Spyros Capralos, President of the European Olympic Committees, and Francesco Ricci Bitti, President of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations, both stressed the important role that sport plays in addressing current challenges, including COVID-recovery, climate change, gender equality and humanitarian crises.
Sergii Bubka, President of the NOC of Ukraine, together with Vadym Huttsait, Minister of Youth and Sports of Ukraine, specifically addressed the solidarity efforts deployed by the sports movement to help the Olympic community in their country. In February, the IOC created a solidarity fund, which has now grown to about USD 2.4 million and financially supported 65 individual projects.