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  • IOC Listening to Critics, Supporters at Buenos Aires Forum


    (ATR) International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach says the IOC is “here to listen” as the first Olympism in Action Forum opens in Buenos Aires.
    IOC President Thomas Bach and Argentina President Mauricio Macri (IOC)

    Bach launched the forum before joining Argentine President Mauricio Macri to talk about how to improve the future of society through sport.

    Macri said his country - about to host the Youth Olympic Games - may now consider a new bid for the Summer Games.

    IOC Ethics Commission chair Ban Ki-moon followed the two presidents. He was interviewed during a session dedicated to the power of the Olympic Truce.

    Love 'em or Hate 'em
    The goal of the inaugural event is wide-ranging dialogue among some 1,600 attendees, including IOC members, NOC and IF representatives, athletes, politicians, members of civil society, youth and critics of the IOC.

    “I think the goal is to have as many open and honest conversations as possible and I think that has been done today on all the panels,” IOC Athletes Commission chair Kirsty Coventry tells ATR about Olympism in Action.

    IOC Athletes Commission chair Kirsty Coventry (ATR)
    The most evocative of the morning sessions addressed the never-ending battle against doping in sport. It was a lively interaction involving Coventry, British cyclist David Millar, WADA investigator Guenther Younger, International Testing Agency executive Benjamin Cohen and Russian whistleblowers Yuliya and Vitaly Stepanova via teleconference.

    Whistleblowers' Regrets
    “I would like to begin by apologizing about my past,” Yuliya Stepanova said about her doping transgressions. “I cheated and now I am talking about it – it’s been almost 6 years since I started talking about doping in Russia.

    “Coaches and sport officials were telling me that athletes from all countries dope and it is a part of athletics,” Stepanova revealed, her voice and image projected on a video screen.

    “ [I hope] younger generations of athletes will stop hearing that cheating is the only way to the top,” said the former Russian 800-meter runner.

    Millar also disclosed details and an explanation for his dark, doping past.

    “When my team saw me at my weakest in 2001, they sent me to a training camp and I gave up – I learned to inject myself,” Millar admitted. “I didn’t know what was right or wrong anymore”

    “I blame the sport for turning me into the person I became,” he said. “I try to educate people on what happened to me and try to prevent it from happening in the future.”

    Coventry offered her thoughts on Millar’s compelling admissions and doping history.

    “I could never understand why, morally I don’t get it, but listening to them and David I was like wow – it made me feel really sad,” the Olympic swimmer from Zimbabwe said.

    Learning from the Past
    The IOC plans to thoroughly assess, maximize and learn from the enormous dish of food for thought from the forum.

    John Coates (right) speaks with ATR editor Ed Hula (ATR)
    IOC member John Coates is the chair of an editorial committee assembling and writing reports on the Forum. It will be assessed, analyzed and debated at the upcoming IOC session, October 8th and 9th.

    “I have no expectations,” Coates admitted. “I’m hoping that trends will be identified that we should address and understand.

    “We’re hoping to have something together by the end of this and also something from the young people that will present to the session itself for discussion, so we have to move very quickly.”

    Coates reveals that the diverse editorial committee helping to draft the reports includes both IOC members and Young Change-Makers.

    “They said what if your interpretations are different than ours, I said yours prevails,” Coates said about the question asked by a Young Change-Maker.
    Chris Dempsey talks about Hosting the Olympic Games (ATR)

    Hearing from All
    Former IOC Olympic Games executive director Gilbert Felli offered his thoughts on the large gathering, including the IOC bringing in critics such as Chris Dempsey, the co-founder of the outspoken “No Boston Olympics” organization.

    “I think it is good to open it up more to the critics of the [Olympic] movement because the movement belongs to everybody, so you need to have every voice,” Felli tells ATR.

    “If you open dialogue and discuss, you might not believe you see the change, but it is coming because of that,” he said.

    The two-day Olympism in Action Forum at the Buenos Aires Exhibition and Convention Center continues Saturday prior to the YOG opening ceremony.

    Written and reported by Brian Pinelli in Buenos Aires . For general comments or questions, click here.

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