Dear Sporting Community,
I think most of us can say that 2020 was not what we expected, with a global pandemic, the Olympic Games being postponed for the first time in Olympic history, borders closing, and sporting events cancelled. Then there were the tragic events that lead to global protests for social justice. This past year brought its fair share of surprises, uncertainty, and challenges. We’ve had to reset our priorities, adapt to new environments and come together like never before. While many are waiting for 2021 to start, our plan is to draw from our experiences this past year to come back stronger and more resilient.
With 2020 coming to a close, we, the Canadian Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission (COC AC), wanted to take this opportunity to share some news, information, and domestic/ international highlights from the year with you.
- Team Canada Boycott – Although a difficult decision, the decision by Team Canada to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympic Games due to the global pandemic positioned us global leaders. Canadian athletes united to become health ambassadors for our country, raising their voices to rally behind the Team Canada of 37 million people to work together to combat the impact of COVID19.
- Order of Canada Appointments – Mark Tewksbury was appointed Companion of the Order of Canada. He came to prominence for his Gold Medal performance in Barcelona in swimming. but has become widely recognized for his humanitarian efforts and 2SLGBTQI advocacy.. Also recognized by the Order of Canada in November were 1976 Olympian Sandra Kirby, who was appointed an Officer, and five-time Olympic medallists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir who were appointed as Members.
- Chef de Mission Announcement – In November, two-time Olympic champion Catriona Le May Doan was announced as Team Canada’s Chef de Mission for the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games.
- COC AC Turnover – Oluseyi Smith made the decision to step away from the COC AC. Seyi has served this group of athlete leaders with passion, integrity, and care. With the mind of an engineer, Seyi brought professionalism and structure to the COC AC that has created a strong foundation from which we can continue to build. We welcome Rosie MacLennan as our new Chair. We also welcome 3 new members to the Athlete Commission: Jasmine Mian, Joseph Polossifakis, and Lucas Makowsky.
We are extremely encouraged by and applaud the perseverance of all athletes in these uncertain times. We also know that we have to continue to look forward, strive for change, and adapt to new realities. We will continue to ensure that athletes are represented in key conversations and the athlete perspective is considered in all aspects of the sport ecosystem.
Here are a few of our priorities for 2021:
- With two Olympic Games in the span of 6 months (Tokyo 2021 & Beijing 2022), our aim is to ensure athletes have the physical and mental support they need to perform at their best.
- We will continue to prioritize athlete engagement. We relied critically on our network of NSO athlete representatives and want to continue to build on that momentum. We will also continue to build stronger relationships with other NOC Athlete commissions, International Federation athletes’ commissions, and other athlete groups so that we can work collaboratively as a global athlete community.
- Covid-19 is still dramatically impacting athletes’ training and competition. The release of the Covid-19 vaccine provides some hope of a return to normalcy within sport and beyond. In the meantime, we will continue to monitor the impact of pandemic on Canadian athletes and work collaboratively with COC and other sport stakeholders to ensure athletes are kept informed and that the needs of athletes are considered and met, as best as possible.
- The global protests for Black Lives Matters pushed us all to critically look at the systems and structures in which we operate. We have built out the Team Canada Diversity and Inclusion Alliance as a start and will continue to prioritize diversity and inclusion within the Canadian sport system.
However, before embarking into 2021, here is a short summary of what the COC AC worked on in 2020 and some of our highlights during this unique and challenging year (It is organized into the COC AC’s strategic plan focus areas).
Rule 50: Global protests reignited conversations around the Olympic Charter Rule 50 which pertains to athlete demonstration and protest at Olympic Games. Amendments were made in January but in the spring of 2020, the IOC called on the IOC AC to lead a global consultation on Rule 50. Knowing that this is a topic of high importance for all athletes, we wanted to ensure that as many voices from the Canadian Athlete community were represented. In collaboration with AthletesCAN, we put together a webinar, held 1:1 conversations, and reviewed data from a survey distributed by AthletesCAN. All this was taken into consideration when formulating our recommendations.
SafeSport: We have had ongoing engagement in SafeSport conversations and committees that lead to Sport Canada’s recent announcement to fund an independent body to deal with SafeSport which was a huge success for 2020.
Diversity & Inclusion (DNI): The Team Canada Diversity and Inclusion Alliance was introduced to help provide feedback on sport policy. Individuals from this group have also been the athlete voice for the Team Canada Diversity and Inclusion Committee within the COC, working to ensure that DNI policies are integrated into safe sport policies.
Facing an unpredictable worldwide health crisis, our main goal was to enhance communication to ensure athletes had the information they need and an effective way to communicate with us. We have continued to build the network of athlete representatives in each sport, and communicate with them via a dedicated Slack channel. We enhanced and broadened our engagement with the broader athlete community through our online platforms (Twitter, Email, COC AC website). We continued cultivating our relationships with international athlete bodies including other NOC athlete commissions, the IOC Athletes’ Commission, WADA’s Athlete Committee, and the Pan Am Sports Athlete Commission, as well as some national athlete organizations such as AthletesCAN, the CPC Athlete Council and Game Plan.
Marketing & Partnerships
As we outlined in this letter last year our primary objective is to help enhance the sport experience of both COC partners and athletes alike. Because of the recent global pandemic and the realignment of the sporting world’s priorities, our work with respect to partners was put on hold leading into the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and 2022 Beijing Olympics. It is in our plan to pick up the conversations and our collaborative efforts with the COC and its many important partners. We have also begun to engage with the COC on the Athlete Compensation Model and the Athlete Engagement Protocol. This will be some ongoing work as we start 2021.
We are excited to make 2021 another good year for athletes, recognizing we will need to continue adapting to new realities. We wish everyone all the best and send a special shout out to all the athletes training and returning to competition! Feel free to reach out to us anytime.
Happy Holidays! Please, stay safe & healthy!
Yours in sport,
The Canadian Olympic Committee’s Athlete Commission
Our overarching mission is to represent, advocate, and communicate the voice of Canadian Olympic Athletes and to promote Olympism while ensuring the consideration of athletes’ rights within the COC.
To see more details on our goals, check out our COC Athlete Commission Strategic Plan Overview here!
Work from our partners that you should know about!
AthletesCAN is the association of Canada’s national team athletes. It is an inclusive athlete organization that is independent of sport governing bodies that works to ensure that the sport system is athlete centered. They have a ton of great resources available that help to build strong athlete leaders so be sure to check it out!
Game Plan is Canada’s total athlete wellness program that has resources available to athletes to ensure they are supported during their sporting career and beyond. These resources focused on five key areas: health, skill development, education, network and career. We recently had a session with Game Plan to learn more about what they have to offer and were blown away. The Game Plan team is working hard to constantly add new partners and services. We highly recommend that you take a minute to explore their website, register for the program and get in touch with a Game Plan advisor near you!
OLY Life is a unique platform where you will find the latest news from the COC and the sport community as well as to learn about upcoming events and opportunities exclusive to Olympians!