The new regional hubs will act as central coordination points, and will provide athletes with independent guidance, and help them access psychosocial support, legal aid and any other assistance that they may need. This will be delivered through existing services, available locally, in the athletes’ own language and with an understanding of their culture and local context.
In response to the request by Olympic Movement stakeholders and International Federations (IFs) in particular for the IOC to take the lead in addressing the critical challenges related to safeguarding in sport at local level, the IOC created a dedicated Safeguarding Working Group in March this year. Chaired by EB member and Deputy Chair of the IOC’s Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Commission HRH Prince Feisal Al Hussein, the working group’s remit is to consider the best approach to establishing independent safeguarding systems and structures at national level, which will ensure that resources are directed to where they are most needed to support athletes and build safeguarding capacity in sports organisations.
United by an International Safe Sport Framework
The establishment of the pilot hubs will be overseen by an International Safe Sport Task Force, which will include representatives from sport, intergovernmental organisations and civil society. The IOC EB today approved the creation of the International Safe Sport Task Force, and also gave its green light for the drafting of an International Safe Sport Framework.
This will draw on existing international standards, and will set out the complementary but differentiated roles of states and sports bodies. It will be endorsed by the Olympic Movement.
A comprehensive expert assessment will also be conducted to determine additional measures that may be needed to strengthen national legal and policy frameworks and cooperation between states, to reinforce their essential role in preventing and responding to harassment and abuse.
Taking the lead on providing local solutions
Today’s decision follows the announcement made by IOC President Thomas Bach in March this year of the establishment of a USD 10M fund per Olympiad to strengthen safe sport locally.
“With this initiative we are following up on the request of the Olympic Movement stakeholders to take the lead and to develop an approach which works locally. Over the past few months, we discussed how we can bridge the gap between the work being done internationally and locally to safeguard athletes,” explained HRH Prince Feisal al Hussein, Chair of the IOC Safeguarding Working Group.
“With the establishment of pilot regional safeguarding hubs in Southern Africa and the Pacific Islands, we are taking a bottom-up approach - critical in this field. We provide standardised principles that can be adapted on the local level, aligned with the culture and context. By the region, for the region,” he added.
A staggered and collaborative approach
Composed of representatives from IFs, National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and athletes, the Safeguarding Working Group has met six times since its inception. Together, its members have identified what they consider the best approach to strengthen safeguarding in sport at local level, through the establishment of regional safeguarding hubs providing more localised expertise around the world.
The pilot hubs in Southern Africa and the Pacific Islands will build on existing initiatives in the regions, and will have in-depth knowledge and understanding of local safeguarding measures, and the legal landscape and services available, so that they can guide anyone harmed in sport – from grassroots through to elite level – towards trusted services, particularly those designed to support their well-being.
Where there are gaps in the available services, the hubs will seek to mobilise resources and partnerships to address them. The hubs’ primary focus will be on response, in order to ensure that any person who has been harmed in sport has a direct point of contact who can offer immediate assistance and access to local support.
Both hubs will also coordinate a network of fully trained, trauma-informed safeguarding in sport investigators, as well as a network of trained safeguarding officers.
Endorsed by the Olympic Movement, the hubs will represent a collaboration between the world of sport, governments and civil society at regional and international levels.
Collective efforts towards safer sport in the Pacific region
An example of this collaboration was recently seen at the Regional Safeguarding Skills Building Workshop, hosted by the Oceania Sport, Equality and Inclusive Communities Impact Network. This Network is a collective of committed stakeholders who share a common vision of promoting gender equality, inclusion and safety in and through sport in the Pacific region, and has been initiated by the Oceania National Olympic Committees (ONOC), the Australian Government’s “Team Up” sport for development programme, UN Women and the IOC through Olympism365 and Olympic Solidarity.
The three-day workshop led to concrete actions to provide safer and more inclusive access for women and girls to play and be involved with sport throughout the Pacific. Additionally, the workshop served as a vital capacity-strengthening opportunity for Pacific safeguarding focal points in preparation for the Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands later this year, and the Olympic Games Paris 2024, where each participating country has been given an allocation for a safeguarding officer in its delegation.
By working together, these organisations are supporting the development of safeguarding systems and plans in each Pacific nation, bridging the gap between major Games and benefiting the entire sporting ecosystem.
A strong commitment to provide a safe environment to all athletes
The IOC has also delivered several important reports and resources related to Safe Sport, including the IOC Consensus Statement: harassment and abuse (nonaccidental violence) in sport (2016), the IOC Consensus Statement on Mental Health in Elite Athletes (2019), and the IOC Toolkit for IFs and NOCs related to creating and implementing policies and procedures to safeguard athletes from all forms of harassment and abuse in sport.
Established in 2022, the dedicated IOC Safe Sport Unit specialises in safeguarding, and has introduced a range of new programmes and initiatives for the Youth Olympic Games and Olympic Games, as well as broader initiatives beyond Games time that cover education and awareness-raising, such as the IOC Mental Health in Elite Athletes Toolkit. In July 2023, the IOC Safe Sport Unit also launched a comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan.
This expertise will help guide the new regional safeguarding hubs, beginning with Southern Africa and the Pacific Islands, and soon to be followed by Europe.
Nearly 200 key decision-makers from across the Olympic Movement in Africa gathered in Cabo Verde this week to continue working together towards gender equality in and through sport. The theme of the forum, “From the Boardroom to the Playing Field”, reiterated the need for the Olympic Movement to address gender equality in all areas of its activities and resulted in 10 key commitments to action.
Driving equality at all levels
Next summer’s Olympic Games Paris 2024 will be the first Games with full gender equality on the field of play. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has distributed the quota places equally: 50 per cent for women and 50 per cent for men. The same principle of gender equality will be fulfilled two years later at the first Olympic sports event to be held on the continent of Africa: the Youth Olympic Games Dakar 2026. These Youth Olympic Games were also a topic discussed at the forum, with participants being urged to look at the impact and opportunities of this event being held in Africa, with the aim of engaging more young women and girls in sport.
Off the field of play, meanwhile, the IOC’s own membership is growing more gender equal, with more than 40 per cent of IOC Members now female – and 50 per cent of the positions in the IOC commissions occupied by women, a landmark reached in 2022. However, as the IOC is the first to acknowledge, there is still much work to be done to bring about gender equality across the wider Olympic Movement – especially off the field of play.
“Everyone has a role to play”
IOC President Thomas Bach addressed the forum through a video message, with additional keynote addresses from Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, former Executive Director of UN Women and now Chair of the IOC’s Advisory Committee on Human Rights; and IOC Member HRH Prince Faisal Al Hussein, who serves as both the Chair of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC)’s Gender Equity Commission and the Vice-Chair of the IOC’s Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Commission.
In his video message, President Bach praised the progress that the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) has made so far – while also emphasising that the entire Olympic Movement needs to work together to narrow the gender gap across sport.
“Only 26 per cent of NOC [National Olympic Committee] leadership positions are occupied by women. Among the IFs [International Federations], only four are led by a woman, and just eight IFs have a female secretary general. We also see this gender gap in the athletes’ entourage, where the number of women holding leadership roles remains unacceptably low.
“If we truly want to promote gender equality and empower women in sport, not only as athletes, but also as coaches, officials and leaders, then everyone has a role to play – the IFs, the NOCs, the athletes and all the other partners and stakeholders.”
Commitments to action
Following two days of active discussions, the forum participants presented their “commitments to action” as a roadmap to work together for gender equality in Africa. These commitments comprise a range of actions and awareness-raising around the need for gender equality from grassroots level to elite sport, including:
- Increasing female athlete participation from grassroots to elite levels
- Implementing the gender balance quotas for governing bodies, with a minimum female representation level of 30 per cent, as outlined in the ANOCA statutes
- Increasing women’s capacity and representation in all categories (i.e. athletes’ entourage, administrators, etc.) from grassroots to elite levels
- Implementing and disseminating the IOC Portrayal Guidelines across media and sports stakeholders
- Establishing and implementing measures for a safe sport environment for all, especially groups that are at risk.
President Bach pointed out the importance of such actions in the efforts to advance gender equality: “Gender equality does not just magically happen. To continue to advance, we need deliberate policies and institutional commitment. This is why I am very pleased to see how ANOCA, through its Gender Equality Commission, is taking important steps. With your strong focus on promoting sport across Africa at the zone level, you are demonstrating the importance of a bottom-up approach – also when it comes to gender equality.”
IOC safeguarding workshop
On the sidelines of the forum, the IOC also hosted a safeguarding workshop for the NOCs. The workshop, held as part of the IOC’s objective to help NOCs develop their own policies and programmes to prevent harassment and abuse, focused on understanding the local challenges that are faced in terms of strengthening safe sport, and on discussing the local solutions available in the various zones of Africa.
The potential to engage new audiences
Marking the latest step in supporting the development of virtual sports within the Olympic Movement, the establishment of the Esports Commission, chaired by IOC Member David Lappartient, who led the IOC Esports Liaison Group until the creation of the new Commission, underlines the IOC’s recognition of the tremendous potential that esports have to engage new audiences and provide new opportunities for athletes and fans alike.
Virtual and simulated sports have become an increasingly important part of the sporting landscape in recent years. The IOC has already been exploring this potential through initiatives such as the Olympic Esports Week, which was held for the first time in Singapore from 23 to 25 June, and the Olympic Esports Series, which invited both professional and amateur players from across the world to compete in virtual sports competitions.
“The IOC believes that virtual sports have the potential to complement and enhance the traditional Olympic sports, and that they can provide new opportunities for athletes and fans to participate in the Olympic Movement,” said President Bach. “We believe that virtual sports can help to promote the values of excellence, friendship and respect that are at the heart of the Olympic Games, and that they can inspire young people around the world to get involved in sports and to lead active and healthy lifestyles.”
Gender equality across IOC commissions
The IOC commissions play a vital role in the organisation’s work, focusing on specific subject areas and making recommendations to the IOC President, the Executive Board and the IOC Session. The composition of each commission includes IOC Members and a range of external experts.
President Bach once again maintained gender equality across the commission positions for 2023, highlighting the organisation’s efforts to foster gender equality and inclusion throughout the sports movement. The IOC continues to lead by example in regard to corporate citizenship, which was one of the key recommendations of its strategic roadmap, Olympic Agenda 2020+5.
Of the 583 positions on the IOC commissions, 287 are occupied by men and 296 by women. This represents a substantial increase in female representation since 2013, when only 20 per cent of commission positions were held by women.
Chairs ensure consistent approach
Almost all of the already existing IOC commissions will retain the same chairperson as last year, ensuring a consistent approach in fulfilling their mandates. 14 chairs of the 33 commissions are female, which makes it 42.42 per cent.
The only recent changes were the appointments of IOC Member Karl Stoss as Chair of the Future Host Commission for the Olympic Winter Games and of IOC Executive Board member Kristin Kloster as the Chair of the Coordination Commission for the XXV Olympic Winter Games Milano Cortina 2026, both replacing members who resigned from their position.
The President also appointed two additional independent members to the IOC Advisory Committee on Human Rights, to reinforce the expertise of the body in the field of business and human rights – namely Ms Rebeca Grynspan Mayufis and Ms Alexandra Guáqueta.
Ms Grynspan Mayufis is a Costa Rican economist who has been serving as Secretary General (SG) of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) since 13 September 2021. Before that, she held various official positions in the UN system and in her country – including as Vice-President and Coordinating Minister of Social Affairs of Costa Rica (1994-1998).
Ms Guáqueta is a Colombian national who currently leads the global social impact and human rights function at a multinational consultancy firm that focuses on sustainability. Prior to her current role, Ms Guaqueta held various positions related to social standards – including as a member of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights (2011-2015).
The next IOC Commissions Week, which sees all the IOC commissions meet to discuss their specific subject areas, will be held remotely in November.