The design and meet of the ONOC Annual Athletes’ Forum is a direct result of the formation of the IOC Athletes’ Commission; the key representation of athletes’ voice in decision-making within the Olympic Movement.
It is a direct trickle-down of the placement of athletes at the front and centre of the Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement as articulated in Recommendation 18 of the Olympic Agenda 2020. This is now extended in Recommendations 3, 4 and 5 in the Olympic Agenda 2020+5.
The ONOC Athletes’ Forum is an biennial event that hears from athlete representatives. It hears directly from athletes and represents athletes at the ONOC Executive Board, its five Commissions, at the Pacific Games Council and at ANOC level.
It last met in 2019 in Nadi (Fiji) and will have its first Virtual Forum in 2021 given the restrictions and realities of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The fora are held biennially and the most regular host country has been Fiji (Nadi) due to the cost effectiveness of the destination.
The ONOC Athletes’ Forum has up to 2019, held four editions of the Forum and this is attributed to the hard work of the first ONOC Athletes’ Commission Chair Barbara Kendall (NZL), incoming Chair Karo Lelai (PNG) and the ONOC Executive and Secretariat. It is also attributed to the commitment of all ONOC Member NOCs’ Athlete Commissions across the Pacific islands with key support from athletes in the Athletes’ Commissions in the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) and the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) over the years.
The ONOC Athletes' Commission promotes and works under the Athletes' Rights and Responsibilities Declaration which was designed for athletes by athletes. Oceania is proud to have been part of the formulation of the Declaration through the work of IOC member Sarah Walker (NZL, BMX Cycling) and Karo Lelai. Sarah Walker chaired the Steering Committee that formulated the Declaration and Karo Lelai is Oceania Representative to the Steering Committee.
Linkage to Olympic Agenda 2020+5 and the ONOC Strategic Framework
The Athletes’ Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities is closely aligned to the Olympic Agenda 2020+5 and the ONOC Strategic Framework ensuring that goals, budgets and other resourcing are strategically used to deliver on the promise of improving the condition and prospect of athletes.
The following matrix offers linkages across all three strategic documents.
Given the geographical remoteness and extensive distances between Oceania island countries, communication has always relied on online tools and methods with periodic in-person meetings usually on the back of global or regional sporting meets. However, the ongoing pandemic has relegated this to virtual meets and most of the work of the Commission and its next Athletes’ Forum will be virtual.
ONOC has an ongoing discussion with its long-standing partner, the University of the South Pacific (USP) exploring the use of its educational facilities throughout the region given the high-speed internet connectivity in its system. This option was used in the delivery of the XL (40th) ONOC Annual General Assembly in 2020, its first virtual Assembly.
ONOC has traditionally been the Continental Association within the Olympic Movement to negotiate complexities of distance and remoteness with technology solutions and have been adept at resorting to online options although in-person gatherings are culturally and effectively the preferred mode.