08 Aug 2022 – In recognition of Safe Sport Day on 8 August and the 10th anniversary of the International Safeguards for Children in Sport, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has reiterated its commitment to the safety and well-being of athletes, and to ensuring that sporting environments are free from all forms of harassment and abuse, by taking the Safe Sport Pledge:
“We are committed to working towards safe sport for every child. We pledge to promote the Safeguards through our networks, embed the Safeguards in our work, and support Safe Sport Day.”
Safe Sport Day offers an opportunity to reflect on the IOC’s safeguarding work and its progress. It is celebrated annually on 8 August, a date designated by the International Advisory Board of the International Safeguards for Children in Sport, of which the IOC is an ex officio member and with which it has enjoyed a longstanding and productive relationship.
The initiative is a coalition of more than 100 sports organisations united in one cause: working to promote and implement the eight safeguards outlined in the project, to ensure that all children have access to safe sport. Through the Safe Sport Pledge, the IOC reaffirms its commitment to safeguarding in sport, and its support for the International Safeguards for Children in Sport.
IOC initiatives to strengthen safeguarding in sport
The IOC has been developing programmes to safeguard athletes since 2004, and remains committed to this today through the Olympic Agenda 2020+5 strategic roadmap, including Recommendation 5, which outlines the IOC’s commitment to “further strengthen safe sport/safeguarding across the Olympic Movement to protect the physical and mental well-being of athletes”. Furthermore, prioritising safeguarding in sport is a key part of the new Olympism 365 strategy – the IOC’s engine to deliver on Recommendation 10 of Olympic Agenda 2020+5, to “strengthen the role of sport as an important enabler for the UN Sustainable Development Goals”. The strategy aims to encourage collaborative partnerships and promote the value of safe, accessible and sustainable sports organisations.
The taking of the pledge is reflective of the IOC’s role as a global leader in the advancement of safe sport and is the latest in a long line of safeguarding initiatives, which are spearheaded by the IOC Prevention of Harassment and Abuse in Sport (PHAS) Working Group.
Two examples are the IOC Games-Time Framework and the IOC Youth Olympic Games-Time Framework, the primary vehicles of the IOC’s Games-time safeguarding activities. The Frameworks outline the reporting structures for incidents of harassment and abuse and the subsequent procedures to safeguard athletes, as well as confirming the presence of an IOC Safeguarding Officer on site during Games time. They have been successfully implemented at the Games since the Olympic Games Rio 2016.
As part of its ongoing efforts to promote athletes’ safety, and in recognition of the importance of strengthening local capacity in safe sport, the IOC launched in 2021 the “IOC Safeguarding Officer in Sport Certificate”. This seven-month remote-learning course, presented by thought leaders in the field of safeguarding in sport, provides participants with the skills and confidence to fulfil the role of Safeguarding Officer or Lead within their sports organisation. The first cohort of safeguarding officers will graduate in September 2022, with a second edition of the course starting later this year.
On the occasion of this year’s Safe Sport Day, and based on the Olympism 365 strategy, the IOC has announced that the Olympic Solidarity scholarship programme for this course will be extended, covering not only participants who enrol in the course from National Olympic Committees (NOCs), but also other partners involved in the IOC’s community projects.
Safe sport across NOCs
NOCs play a key role in safeguarding in sport, and various projects and policies have been developed around the world, thanks to the support provided by the IOC. This comes as a result of Recommendation 5 of Olympic Agenda 2020+5 and the IOC Safe Sport Action Plan of the IOC Safe Sport Unit, which support the implementation of safeguarding policies and procedures through Olympic Solidarity.
Two recent notable developments include the Bhutan NOC launching a comprehensive safe sport policy, which included signing a memorandum of understanding with National Federations to ensure they undertake safe sport initiatives, and the Maldives NOC implementing a child athlete safeguarding policy, endorsed by all National Sports Associations and developed in collaboration with a child rights organisation. The launch was attended by members of the NOC and the Maldivian Government, with the policy being inaugurated by the President of the Maldives.
“Safe sport has to be a very complete policy, where everybody is involved,” said Thamooh Ahmed, the Maldives NOC Secretary General. “Everybody involved in sport – athletes, officials, referees or management – has to know how they should move forward. This is not just a policy for athletes.”
Support from the IOC has been vital to the success of these NOCs’ safe sport activities. The IOC Athlete Safeguarding Toolkit offered a valuable framework on which the Maldives NOC based its policy, while an NOC Athletes’ Commission Activity Grant from Olympic Solidarity was central to enabling the launch of the safeguarding policy in Bhutan. In Panama, meanwhile, funding and technical support from Olympic Solidarity have facilitated the establishment of a safe sport centre by the Panama NOC, where athletes can go to report incidents of harassment or abuse and receive expert advice and support.
These developments, driven by NOCs, are powerful illustrations of the potential for sporting organisations to make proactive and positive changes to sport in their regions, and contribute to a safer sporting environment for all participants.
Involving local communities and partners
Involving local partners builds on the work of the IOC in strengthening safeguarding in community sport, the game-changing potential of which is exemplified by the One Win Leads to Another (OWLA) programme. Developed by the IOC and UN Women, and delivered by partners Empodera and Women Win, OWLA aims to empower women and girls in sport and promote gender equality. With support provided through the programme, in 2020 the Brazil NOC launched an e-learning course on ending sexual harassment and abuse in sport, which has since been completed by thousands of people. The course is currently being adapted to be delivered to children and adolescents.