4 C
Geneva
Friday, February 23, 2024

2018, a great Olympic year

Dear Olympic friends,

Here we are at the dawn of a great Olympic year.

When the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games get underway in a few weeks' time, it will be the first time that the magic of Olympic sport on snow and ice has been brought to the Republic of Korea. These Games will show the world a modern and passionate Korea. Thanks to the excellent work of the PyeongChang 2018 Organizing Committee, everything is in place to welcome the world's best winter sports athletes, who will dazzle us with their sporting performances.

We are, however, aware of the political tensions that exist on the Korean peninsula. The IOC has been monitoring the situation since 2015 through close contact with the leaders of the governments and NOCs concerned. In all these discussions, the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games have never been called into question. On the contrary, we are supported in our position that the Olympic Games must always transcend political divisions. The Olympic Games encourage dialogue. They are a symbol of hope and peace. In these troubled times, they are the only event that brings the world together in peaceful competition. To ensure that this is also the case at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, we continue to monitor the situation very closely.

It hasn't been easy getting here. In recent weeks, the IOC has had to deal with an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport. Based on the findings of the Schmid Commission, which investigated the organized manipulation of the anti-doping system in Russia, the IOC Executive Board had to suspend the Russian National Olympic Committee, while at the same time opening the door to athletes of integrity by inviting them to compete in PyeongChang. After 17 months of meticulous work, we can confidently state that the procedure was regular. The Executive Board's decision punishes the perpetrators of past violations, while paving the way for the future. This proportionate sanction should enable us to draw a line under this damaging episode. It was a difficult but necessary decision to ensure the integrity of the Olympic Games. If everyone draws the right conclusions, it could serve as a catalyst for the establishment of a more robust anti-doping system under the leadership of WADA.

Despite all these difficulties, the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games promise to be a great success, and will mark the start of an exciting 2018 Olympic year. There's still plenty to look forward to this year, with more events both on and off the competition field, and the realization of new reforms stemming from Olympic Agenda 2020.

One of these reforms is the new formula for the Youth Olympic Games (YOG). The first to illustrate our new approach will be the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games, featuring younger, more urban events and greater female representation. These will be the first to feature full gender equality, with equal numbers of girls and boys competing in the same number of men's and women's events. This will mark another major milestone in our ongoing efforts, as part of Olympic Agenda 2020, to promote gender equality. Thanks to an innovative formula made up of new sports and disciplines, the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games promise to offer a veritable festival of sport, youth and culture. The Opening Ceremony in the heart of this sports-loving city and the new "parks concept" will add a new dimension to the YOG, involving the local population in numerous activities organized alongside the sporting events themselves. The YOG will be a great testing ground for new ideas to motivate and mobilize young people through sport.

In another direct contribution to the implementation of the Olympic Agenda 2020, we will be attending the first-ever "Olympism in Action" Forum, which will take place in Buenos Aires just before the YOG. It will bring together a community of nearly 2,000 representatives from the Olympic Movement, business, politics and civil society. In a new form of debate, we will discuss the most important issues currently occupying sport in modern society, addressing a wide range of topics including education and health, the future of the Olympic Games, good governance, digital, eSport and electronic games. The "Olympism in Action" Forum will also benefit from the active contribution of many young athletes taking part in the YOG.

The creation of the Olympic Channel is one of the major projects advocated by the Olympic Agenda 2020. Now in its second year of operation, the Olympic Channel will offer more live sports broadcasts and engage audiences through new interactive programs. In this Olympic year, priority will be given to stepping up coverage of the PyeongChang 2018 Games and broadcasting live YOG events to relay the performances of young athletes around the globe. In doing so, the Olympic channel can continue to develop its offering, building on a solid foundation of over one billion video views across all platforms. Another priority will be to create content that appeals to a new generation of sports fans, even as the Olympic Channel continues to attract a younger audience. Indeed, 82% of people viewing Olympic Channel content on social media are under 35, proof that we're moving in the right direction.

The Olympic Agenda 2020 has placed a strong emphasis on reforming the bidding process for the Olympic Games, reducing costs for cities and offering them greater flexibility to adapt the Olympic event to local, regional and national development objectives. Against this backdrop, the new bidding procedure for the 2026 Olympic Winter Games has already been launched, with a dialogue phase focusing from the outset on a closer partnership between the IOC and interested cities. The IOC has already engaged in an initial dialogue with a number of cities and NOCs on three continents.

Another pillar of the Olympic Agenda 2020 is to make the organization of the Games more feasible and sustainable. In this respect, the new "Managing the Games to 2020" initiative, which will be made public in early 2018, will play a key role in controlling costs and helping to save Olympic organizing committees several hundred million dollars. Already today, these reforms in favour of more realistic and sustainable editions of the Games are finding favour with future organizing committees, and are showing positive results in budgetary terms. In 2018, the IOC must ensure that these benefits are also communicated to the general public.

Guided by the Olympic Agenda 2020, in 2018 the IOC will join forces with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the International Labour Organization (ILO), sports organizations, NGOs and many other stakeholders to create the independent Centre for Sport and Human Rights. This center will be another example of the importance of sport in our modern world.

The same applies to the IOC's leading role in the fight against corruption in sport. This is why the International Partnership against Corruption in Sport (IPACS), a multi-stakeholder platform set up by the IOC in 2017, will play an even greater role in cooperation with our partners, including other international sports organizations, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Council of Europe and numerous governments. This partnership will create tools and propose practical solutions to help improve governance and ensure the integrity of sport at all levels.

These and other activities will help us to meet the challenges facing sport and society in today's fragile world. Stability is arguably the most precious value at the moment. As we demonstrated in 2017 through our many long-standing partnerships with sponsors and broadcasters, as well as with the double award of the 2024 and 2028 Olympic Games to Paris and Los Angeles respectively, the Olympic Movement continues to be an anchor of stability in a rapidly changing world.

For all these reasons, we can approach the new year 2018 with confidence, but without complacency. And what better time than the start of an Olympic year to remind us that sport remains a source of joy and faith in the future.

In this spirit of optimism and confidence, I wish you a happy and prosperous 2018 Olympic year.