It was Mahatma Gandhi who famously said: «Be the change that you wish to see in the world.» Whether forceful like a tidal wave or incrementally like a glacier, change is always hard. The hardest part is accepting that you need to change, harder still when you are a group of more than one hundred independent strong-minded members from around the world all needing to be of one mind.
But together the International Olympic Committee members came together with one mind – they understood that the world has changed and that we have to continue to change with it. They agreed to a man and woman to support the 40 recommendations of Olympic Agenda 2020 that will change our organization and Olympic sport and make it fit for the future.
But why now? For me this is an easy answer. The Olympic Movement has rarely been stronger. We have had two exceptional Games in 2012 and 2014. We enjoy financial stability and redistribute more than 90 percent of our revenues to sport and to the athletes – that is over $3 million every single day going to support worldwide sport. Being strong and in good health is important to any change program. The world is changing faster than ever so we need to be in the driving seat rather than sitting in the back being driven by others.
The world is more fragile, fragmented and individualized than ever. Our messages of tolerance, solidarity, friendship and peace are more important today than ever before. But if we want to strengthen the relevance of our Olympic Message people have to hear that message, they have to understand what we are endeavoring to do and they have to believe in our integrity to deliver.
We have listened to people’s concerns, we have listened to the questions people have about the access and affordability of the Olympic Games, about our governance, our finances, our values and our social and community responsibility. In short, we hear that people want to understand more about our sustainability, our credibility and the plans we have to engage young people. They want to understand how the Olympic Movement and its values can play a role in making the world a better place.
We have spent the past year addressing these concerns and tackling the next question, which is what to change in order to make the progress we seek. The IOC is a values-based organization so it was not enough to change just for the sake of change. For us change has to be more than a cosmetic effort or just a procedure, change has to have a goal. This goal is progress. Progress for us means strengthening sport in society through our values.
The decisions we collectively made mean we now have embraced a new philosophy in the bidding procedure which will enable cities each to target their own different development goals. Bidding will not be a ‘one size fits all’ solution. We need to understand how the Olympic Games can fit into the social, economic and sporting interests of a city or region. We will respect and encourage diversity in bidding in the same way we have also enshrined diversity and the prohibition of discrimination in the fundamental principles of Olympism.
We have also strengthened our good governance, transparency and ethics. Our financial statements will be prepared and audited by the benchmark International Financial Reporting Standards IFRS, and even to a higher standard than is strictly legally necessary. We will provide an annual activity and financial report, including the allowance policy for IOC Members, which will give evidence for the fact that the IOC Members are genuine unpaid volunteers. We already have an independent Ethics Commission but in common with good governance practice of many large corporations we will also create the position of a compliance officer.
When it comes to young people we cannot forget that they are our future. As a sports organization we cannot be satisfied only with increasing numbers of young people watching the Olympic Games. Only children playing sport can be future athletes. Only children playing sport can enjoy the educational and health values of sport. We want to inspire these children by giving them better access to sport. We want to engage with them wherever they are. We want sport on more school-curricula world-wide. We have adopted plans to allow the sports program to more easily allow the inclusion of new sports that appeal to the young.
I am also delighted with the recommendation to create an Olympic Channel. We must give our athletes and sports the worldwide media exposure they deserve between Olympic Games, connecting the athletes with their fans, the fans with sport 365 days a year.
The recommendations the Olympic Movement has passed are all about progress – progress in safeguarding the Olympic values and progress in strengthening sport in society. They are the individual pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, but put together these individual pieces come together to provide a picture of progress.
And now our work begins. We have come together and agreed our roadmap for the future. Changes that I believe will shape the Olympic Movement to be fit to speak to a new generation of fans and athletes. In the same way as our founder, Pierre de Coubertin set out on a journey over a century ago we carry the hopes and dreams of the world’s athletes to turn these recommendations into progress and to drive unity in diversity through our actions. We are shaping a brighter future for the athletes and the Olympic Movement. Just as Pierre de Coubertin did before us, we will all “be that change”. Together we will deliver an Olympic future for this magnificent, truly global Olympic Movement.