Archers attend cross-sport IOC Athletes’ Forum in Lausanne

14 October 2015
Lausanne (SUI)
Representatives from the IOC, IPC, international sports federations and Olympic Games organisers Athletes’ Commissions attended the forum.

Header image courtesy Viktoriya Koval/Facebook.

More than 100 athletes from 40 countries who, according to the International Olympic Committee’s website, had a combined 100 Olympic medals and 200 Olympic appearances between them, attended the three-day Athletes’ Forum in the Olympic Capital of Lausanne.

Archery was represented by chair of the World Archery Athletes Committee, Olympian Viktoriya Koval, and member of the International Paralympic Committee Athletes’ Council, Beijing 2008 Paralympic Champion Gizem Girismen.

The Forum itself lasted for three days and consisted of plenary sessions and panel discussions covering topics like effective leadership and management of athlete commissions, athletes’ services and welfare, communication and experiences during Games time.

Image copyright IOC/Christophe Moratal.

Gizem said it was the communication aspect that she found most important.

“If you cannot communicate effectively with athletes, you cannot voice their vision,” she explained. Gizem, who studies for a Masters degree, was elected at her second Paralympics in London.

“Proper communication ensures athletes are at the heart of both the Olympic and Paralympic Movements.”

It’s something the event emphasised, both during its discussions around aspects of the athlete-related recommendations from Olympic Agenda 2020 and in the actions of the IOC President.

“This President is quite different,” said Viktoriya. “He was always present, in activities, in workshops, all the time he was in close contact. My first fencing coach was Thomas Bach!”

President Bach became Olympic Champion in fencing at the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games.

Image courtesy Viktoriya Koval/Facebook.

He was also one of the founding members of the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission in 1981, and said the progress made by commissions at all levels in sport was “great to see” as athletes now “play a fundamental role in decision-making”.

Delegates at the Forum settled on three recommendations to be presented the IOC Executive Board in December.

These included the integration of athlete communications into the new Olympic Channel, an online broadcast platform scheduled to launch sometime in 2016, the empowerment of athletes through better provision of information, making sure all international federations had athletes’ commissions and having the Court for Arbitration in Sport develop and educate athlete arbitrators.

Both Viktoriya and Gizem said they would see how they could translate the recommendations to their own organisations.

“We should be encouraging national federations to set-up athlete councils,” said Viktoriya. “When this recommendation comes from the international federation it will carry more weight. Then, internally, national federations can better capture the needs of athletes.”

Gizem added that she would be more proactive in seeing that federations included a para archery representative in their commissions.

Image copyright IOC/Christophe Moratal.

The challenge for athlete representatives, the pair said, went back to the key issue of communication and getting widespread feedback and contact with the persons they represent.

“We are the voice of athletes but we need a better platform in which athletes can discuss issues,” said Viktoriya, explaining that there was key information about changes to Olympic Rules 40 and 50, the way on-field athlete branding is dealt with, to pass on.

“Face-to-face communication is very important, I hope to visit some big events in 2016, but an online area for athletes would be great progress.”

In her role on the IPC commission, Gizem said she travels on an outreach programme to specific para events – she doesn’t represent just para archery but has cross-sport responsibility – and said that she’d like to see more coordination between the Olympic and Paralympic sides of sports.

“That’s my desire. There’s been improvement but we’re not yet at the point where I would like to see it, both in gender equality and para inclusion,” Gizem explained.

Thanks to the new ideas, the changes brought about by Olympic Agenda 2020 and the spirit of sport found at the Athletes’ Forum, more-and-more work is being done, both agree, to keep athletes at the heart of the Olympic Movement.