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  • Q&A: Olympic Champion, IOC Member Britta Heidemann


    (ATR) IOC member and fencing champion Britta Heidemann says she believes more can be done through social media and the Olympic Channel to inspire young people with sport.
    Britta Heidemann was elected to the IOC Athletes Commission in 2016.

    In an interview at Sportel this week in Monaco Heidemann told ATR’s Heinz Peter Kreuzer that the proliferation of stories about Olympic athletes through social media is good for marketing of those athletes as well.

    Heidemann, 37, competed in three Olympics from 2004 to 2012, winning a gold medal in 2008. She was elected to the IOC Athletes Commission and her seat on the IOC in 2016. She provides a voice for athletes on two other commissions, Communications and the Olympic Channel.

    (The interview was conducted in German and translated)

    ATR: How would you describe your role in the IOC?

    Britta Heidemann: I was elected to the IOC Athletes Commission in 2016 and it is very intensive work. What I enjoy most of all is to work with dual career opportunities for athletes.

    Meanwhile there is the Athletes 365 space in the Olympic Village, which is designed in such a way that the athletes can take advantage of the services available as much as possible during the Olympic Games. Or that they also get their pictures sent to them after the games. This is also new now, that every athlete can retrieve pictures taken of them.

    And then there is the fact that each of us in the Athletes Commission also sits in other commissions. It's a shame that we meet once a year. There is not so much room for discussion. The problem is that you cannot meet ten times a year in every Commission. We do that with the Athletes Commission via video conferences.

    ATR: You also sit on the Olympic Channel Commission. How do you see your task?

    Heidemann: So at Sportel, for example, I have the opportunity to exchange ideas with the Olympic Channel and give some input. By the way, I think they are doing a very good job.

    The idea that I offered a year and a half ago of making features about the background of athletes is now being implemented.

    These background stories are good for a few things. For the memory of the athletes. For marketing. A third reason is simply to convey the emotion of what it means to be an athlete. Not just standing on the podium, but having bad moments like any other person.

    ATR: What would you like to change?

    Heidemann: I think it would be good if the stories of athletes could find their way even more on smart phones and laptops of young people.

    We have a rise in the numbers of influencers, who from my point of view do a super job because they have many followers. But they often have no substance to offer. But with sport, the athlete, there’s plenty to say. We have something to tell, we can be good role models and also show that you can get somewhere with motivation and commitment. If you don't make it, if you don't win first place, then you still have had a fulfilling time. And that's very motivating.

    As a sports community, we still have to do a little
    Heidemann won fencing gold in Beijing. (Getty Images)
    more in the social media area and perhaps the media could also publish that there are such great inspirations.

    ATR: You’ve already mentioned rule 40. In the meantime, the restrictions for athletes have been lifted. The German Olympic Sports Federation has adapted the rules, now also the USOPC. What is your position on the fact that athletes have more rights?

    Heidemann: I could understand that there must be rules, that the Olympic partners have certain rights. Nowadays, however, the rules as they have been practiced, so far are almost impossible to implement.

    This will probably be an ongoing process, how it will be handled. This will be handled and followed up in each country. And each country has its own restrictions.

    But I am also in favor of protecting athletes. A Roger Federer, if he is in the village and everyone takes pictures of him eating, whether it is posted or not, I find that impossible, regardless of social media rules. Either way, you don't have it under control. And that's what it was meant for, to protect the athletes.

    Well, I think that it will automatically evolve and adapt, because you can't stop it.

    ATR: IOC President Thomas Bach has refused to share the IOC's revenues with the athletes, which many athletes, especially from Germany, have demanded. How do you see it?

    Heidemann: As athletes' representatives, we have an insight into the concerns and needs of all athletes. The Germans also had the opportunity to listen to the opinions of the other athletes at the Athletes' Forum.

    Athletes from small countries in particular are worried that if there is a different distribution of funds, there will be no sport at all in some countries. The question that still remains: Where should the money be taken away?

    From a German point of view, I wonder. We ourselves live a principle of solidarity. Athletes in Germany are always saying that we should also take young talent into account. And also the injured and those who didn't make it.

    In other words, what is the demand? To give money to every starter, the first one gets more than the tenth, what about those who are not taken? Should Usain Bolt get even more money and the last one get nothing?

    If there is a good idea, I will gladly carry it on.

    So the argument that the money is distributed to the different countries according to the principle of solidarity, with the countries themselves arranging how it corresponds to their situation, I do not think that this is wrong in principle. I see chances that the money will be distributed more directly using a country distribution principle.

    ATR: One topic that is currently affecting sport is the abuse of athletes. What does the IOC do about it?

    Heidemann: After three years in the IOC, I have the impression that the IOC has a comprehensive code of ethics. I myself am involved in the discussions on the protection of athletes, as far as psychological care is concerned, but also abuse in sport. Not only sexual abuse, but also physical and psychological abuse. This is a huge issue in the Athletes Commission and we are in constant contact with the relevant commissions. That is always on our agenda.

    Reported by Heinz Peter Kreuzer. For general comments or questions, click here.
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