January 27, 2022

New book explores the rise of the athlete voice within the Olympic Movement since 1981

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International Olympic Committee

03 Dec 2021 – Athletes are at the heart of the Olympic Movement. In addition to being sportspeople and role models, they are important spokespeople and key contributors in shaping the environment in which they compete. Their crucial position today is the result of a journey that began 40 years ago at the XI Olympic Congress in Baden-Baden, Germany and which resulted in the creation of the IOC Athletes’ Commission in December 1981.

Now, a new book by Professor Stephan Wassong, with a special contribution by Olympic champion Michelle Ford-Eriksson, MBE, charts the history and evolution of the IOC Athletes’ Commission from its early beginnings as the all-important institutional voice-piece of the athletes within the Olympic Movement. The book is free of charge and available online.

Published to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Commission, The International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission: Its Foundation, Development & Transition, 1981-2000, is the first book to tell the full story of the Commission’s creation in 1981. It traces the first two decades of the Commission’s history and the rise of the athletes’ institutional voice within the Olympic Movement. It looks back at the Commission’s initiatives and institutional reforms, which have contributed to the development of its central role in the Olympic Movement. The book also tackles head-on a range of Olympic topics, from Games boycotts via the fight against doping to the representation of women.

Contributors to the book include those who were there at the very beginning and who have helped shape the role of the Commission over the years, including as IOC President and Olympic champion, Thomas Bach, former IOC Vice-President and Olympic bronze medallist Anita DeFrantz, Sebastian Coe, Charmaine Crooks, Svetla Otzetowa, Ken Read and Peter Montgomery, among others. In addition, former IOC Athletes’ Commission Chairs Sergey Bubka and Kirsty Coventry, both of them IOC Members and Olympic champions, provide insights into the more recent history of the Commission. Through the testimonies, the book analyses in detail the process by which athletes were invited to elect their peers to the Commission and their appointments as IOC Members. It also looks more widely at the strengthening of the institutional voice of athletes within the Olympic Movement. This book represents the first time that this story has been researched and published in such detail, and should serve as an important reference for all those interested in the origins and evolution of athletes’ commissions within the Olympic Movement.

Welcoming its publication, IOC President Thomas Bach, who was among the athletes participating 40 years ago, said: “The Baden-Baden Congress in 1981 was really a new beginning for athletes within the Olympic Movement. Since then, athletes’ representation has gone from strength to strength.

“Today, the athletes’ voice is at the heart of everything the Olympic Movement represents. This was not always the case. This book stands as a timely reminder of the importance of that role. I congratulate Stephan Wassong and Michelle-Ford Eriksson for a meticulously researched book that has succeeded in capturing the rightful evolution of the Athletes’ Commission within the IOC.”

Commenting on the book, Professor Wassong said: “This book provides insights into the evolution of the responsibility ascribed to the athletes’ voice – and, specifically, athletes’ active participation in decision-making processes within the International Olympic Committee. It is the first time that this story has been researched and published in such detail. I hope it serves as a useful resource for all those interested in the origins and evolutions of athletes’ commissions within the Olympic Movement.”

Meanwhile, Michelle Ford-Eriksson explained: “We were the first group of athletes ever invited to present to the IOC Members and the wider Olympic Movement. We took our chance to be bold — doping, gender equality, boycotts, professionalism — little did I know then that we were laying the foundations for the creation of the Athletes’ Voice within the Olympic Movement. I am proud this story is finally on paper and can be shared with the world.

The International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission: Its Foundation, Development & Transition, 1981-2000, by Stephan Wassong, in collaboration with Michelle Ford-Eriksson, is published by the Institute of Sport History/Olympic Studies Centre, German Sport University Cologne, 2021, ISBN 978949068010. It is available on: Olympic World Library – The International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission : its foundation, development and transition : 1981-2000 / Stephan Wassong – Detail (olympics.com)

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