On the spot

Marie Sallois Dembreville, IOC

Director, Corporate Development, Brand and Sustainability

Member of the Executive Committee, World Union of Olympic Cities

This year, the International Olympic Committee is launching the first ever Olympism in Action Forum. What is new and innovative about this event? What are your expectations?

The Olympism in Action Forum is an outcome of Olympic Agenda 2020, the International Olympic Committee’s strategic roadmap to shape the future of the Olympic Movement, initiated by Thomas Bach right after he was elected as IOC President in 2013.

The Forum will not only involve Olympic Movement stakeholders, but it will also welcome broader spheres of society with the power to bring change, including NGOs, academics, businesses, artists and more.

It will address the most important topics related to sport and society through a constructive dialogue, welcoming diverse points of view. No topics will be avoided, and we want to be open and transparent about the strengths of the Olympic Movement, but also the challenges ahead of us, and discuss the way forward with civil society at large, and not only with the Movement.

Olympism and the Olympic Games are presented as a catalyst for change and sport as a peace-making tool. Could you explain how sport has become such a powerful vector that contributes to “building a better world”?

The two Koreas marching and competing together at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 is the latest example of the power of sport. That was unthinkable a year before, and it opened the way for historic developments in the Korea peninsula. This is the spirit and essence of the Olympic Truce, which dates back to the 9th century BC!

At the Olympic Games and through the values of Olympism, everybody is united with the same goal, regardless of what would otherwise divide them. Sport unites people, regardless of your age, gender, faith or language.

The Olympic Games bring the world together to compete and celebrate on the same stage, but the spirit of Olympism and the power of sport go beyond the Games.

This is why sport was recognised by the UN as a key enabler of sustainable development and peace in the post-2015 development goals, with the following statement: “Sport is also an important enabler of sustainable development. We recognise the growing contribution of sport to the realisation of development and peace in its promotion of tolerance and respect and the contributions it makes to the empowerment of women and of young people, individuals and communities as well as to health, education and social inclusion objectives.”

The Forum will be attended by a broad range of big players outside the Olympic Movement, such as NGOs, academics, businesses, ordinary citizens, etc. How will you collect civil society representatives’ thoughts and ideas? How will the IOC use the outputs delivered during the event?

Collecting thoughts and ideas is one of the key ambitions of the Forum and what will make it a success: to gather a broad range of key players and have this wider dialogue with society at large. There will be plenary sessions to provide context and set the scene, and then a series of collaborative workshops to address specific topics in more detail. Here we will rely on the input and ideas of all the participants.

There will be outputs around the key topics discussed, which we want to use to continue to align our work with the latest trends and expectations of society at large and prepare for the phase after Olympic Agenda 2020.

But this doesn’t stop at the end of the event. We would like to continue to engage with the community that participated in the Forum in an ongoing exchange of ideas.

The mayors of Olympic cities are expected to attend. What do you think the members of the Union could bring to the discussions? How can they best contribute?

The network of Olympic cities has important experience of how the Olympic Games and sport can contribute to the well-being of their citizens.

The Olympic cities will share their experience of hosting the Olympic Games and demonstrate what kind of legacies – both tangible and intangible – the Olympic Games have left to them, such as the development of elite sport, development of sport for health, education and inclusion, innovation and skillsets, as well as the acceleration of urban development, to name but a few.

With rapid urbanisation, all cities are also facing challenges in terms of sedentary lifestyles and obesity. Most of the former and future Olympic cities feel very committed to tackling these issues, and some of them have interesting experiences to share.

In short, the network of Olympic cities could share at the Olympism in Action Forum both their challenges and the solutions they are putting in place to leverage sport as a force for sustainable development.

The Olympism in Action Forum is organised back-to-back with the Youth Olympic Games. What special place will be given to young people in the discussions, as they embody tomorrow’s leading generation?

The original plan was for the Forum to take place together with the IOC Session in Lima in September 2017, but later it was decided to move the event to just before the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires.

This is a great opportunity, both for the Olympism in Action Forum and the Youth Olympic Games: participants of the Youth Olympic Games will be joining the event, and Olympism in Action Forum attendees will have the opportunity to experience the Youth Olympic Games.

Young people are a pillar of Olympic Agenda 2020 and it was always planned to include them in the discussions: there will of course be youth participants, but also speakers, moderators, etc. Rather than being “cornered” into one section/moment, we would like young people to be present throughout the event. Yet we also would like them to have their special moments. For example, we will use youth rapporteurs to present the main outcomes of the Forum to the IOC Session that will take place a few days later in Buenos Aires.

Will Olympism in Action become a recurring event? When and where will the next edition be held?

The Olympism in Action Forum is planned to be a recurring event, taking place every four years. Whether the next edition will take place together with the Youth Olympic Games 2022 or at another time is not yet decided. It will be assessed based on the success and outcomes of the first edition.