The ONOC Athletes’ Commission (ONOC AC), chaired by Karo Lelai (Papua New Guinea) was established in 2005 and provides support to athletes of all 17 National Olympic Committees (NOCs).
It comprises executives elected from the Oceania region. It is part of the IOC international structure giving athletes a voice in every facet of the Olympic Movement.
Through Olympic Agenda 2020 Recommendation 18, designed to strengthen support to athletes, the IOC has reinforced the position of athletes at “the heart of the Olympic Movement”. The ONOC AC’s purpose is to ensure the voices of our Oceania Athletes are expressed, articulated and taken into account by the ONOC Executive Board and its associated decision-making bodies.
At the global level, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has 30 Commissions which the Olympic Charter makes provision for as a mechanism to address challenges and improve the Olympic Movement and sport in general as and when the need arises.
At Continental level for ONOC, this means adopting the same measures as that at IOC level in order to meet needs specific to its jurisdiction.
Given that athletes remain the primary stakeholder in the Olympic Movement, this Commission provides a strong platform for their voice and representation in matters requiring lobby, advocacy and decision-making. The Commission usually comprises past and current athletes.
As such, they provide information, advice and guidance based on real experiences which then stand to improve ONOC sport and services in Oceania.
COVID-19 PANDEMIC: A Message to the Warriors of Oceania
The halting of the world with the outbreak of the COVID-19 Pandemic threw humanity into panic and uncertainty. Knowing that athletes spend a good part of the peak of their physicality pursuing sport - an attempt at the highest achievement and glory possible and the sudden halting of life as usual, continues to place athletes under more severe emotional and mental strain. The postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games by a full year brought out the humanity of Olympism and in the Oceania Continent, the Athletes Commission took the lead in responding to athletes. Ms Karo Lelai (PNG), Chair of the Athletes Commission spoke to athletes in her role as Chair and from the depth of her own experience as a former athlete.
Context and Structure - from IOC to athletes through their NOCs, ANOC and ONOC
Athletes - the ‘heart’ of the Olympics
The Athletes’ Commission at any level is arguably the most important among all commissions given its composition of athletes - the primary stakeholder group in the Olympic Movement. After all, there are no games without athletes.
This is articulated at the highest level: ‘The IOC's mission is to place athletes at the heart of the Olympic Movement and Olympic Agenda 2020 recommendations further support and protect clean and fair sport. The IOC Athletes' Commission serves as a link between the athletes and the IOC. In order to achieve this, the IOC Athletes' Commission has the leading role with athletes and with the Olympic Movement.’
IOC Athletes’ Commission members from the Oceania Continent are Sarah Walker (New Zealand) and James Tomkins (Australia). Karo Lelai (Papua New Guinea) is a member by virtue of her role as ANOC Athletes’ Commission Chair.
By and for athletes - Athlete365
An important athlete-led initiative is Athlete365, an IOC initiative created by athletes, for athletes with the purpose of supporting athletes throughout their journey in sport on and off the field. It provides tools, services and a strong global network to help athletes tackle the challenges that come with competing at the elite level.
ANOC Athletes’ Commission
At the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) level, which currently comprises 206 NOCs and the 5 Continental Associations through which they largely engage, there is an ANOC Athletes’ Commission chaired, as mentioned earlier, by Karo Lelai of Papua New Guinea (PNG), and Chair of the ONOC Athletes Commission.
ANOC Annual Awards
An important feature of ANOC is its Annual Awards where two athletes, one male and one female, are awarded in recognition of their achievements from the preceding annual cycle. More can be found at the link.
ONOC Athletes’ Commission
The ONOC Athletes’ Commission was established in 2005, directly linking to Barbara Kendall (Sailing, NZ) becoming an IOC Member. Her first appointment and responsibility was as Chair of the ONOC Athletes’ Commission with three other outstanding athletes from Oceania - Mary Mahuk (Track and Field, Vanuatu), Nacanieli Takayawa (Judo, Fiji), and Marcus Stephens (Weightlifting, Nauru). A year later, 2006, the Commission team was joined by Allana Slater (Gymnastics, Australia).
The ONOC AC partnered with the Oceania Regional Anti-Doping Organisation (ORADO) to deliver a successful programme of activities around anti-doping in sport. It also delivered activities around health with a focus on HIV and AIDS. Over the years, the ONOC AC has delivered innovative programmes with tangible impact. One of it, the Excellence for Life Programme which underscored 2009 and the joining of Andrew Lepani (Football, PNG).
Voices of Athletes (VOA)
Its signature programme remains the Voices of Athletes (VOA) programme using athletes for advocacy and action surrounding social issues which began in 2009. The VOA has made significant impact, one of the early ones being on a ‘Go Green’ environmental messaging and work targeting pollution and single-use plastic in the Pacific islands with PNG ultimately winning an IOC Sustainability Award in 2012. It has also been critically important via the programme: Be a Leader, Play True, Play Safe advocating clean sport.
Terms of Reference
The Commission has a Terms of reference outlining its core functions and responsibilities.
The current ONOC Athletes Commission members are below. There are also three athletes from the Oceania Continent who are members of the global IOC Athletes’ Commission: Karo Lelai (PNG, Basketball); Sarah Walker (NZ, Cycling) and James Tomkins (Australia, Rowing).