— Published 6 September 2023

The IOC more feminine and electronic than ever

The exercise has become a ritual in the Olympic movement. But it remains eagerly awaited. True to form, on Tuesday 5 September the IOC unveiled the composition of its numerous commissions – no fewer than 33 – for the year 2023. The announcement was made by Thomas Bach himself.

What should we learn from it? Without being the most innovative of recent years, the class of 2023 reinforces several trends. It also contains a surprise.

The first trend is numbers. The IOC’s commissions are increasingly broad-based. With thirty-three groups, the largest of which have more than forty members, almost 600 people (583) can now claim a direct link with the Olympic body.

Another lesson: parity is increasing. It has even been slightly reversed, with the number of women (296) now exceeding the number of men (287). The IOC is proud of this fact: only 20% of the seats were held by women in 2013, the year Thomas Bach took the helm. In ten years, the balance has been established. A fine achievement.

So women are out in force. But as the class of 2023 has clearly demonstrated, women are not the only force to be reckoned with. Fourteen of the 33 Commissions are chaired by women, a percentage of 42.42%, including some of the IOC’s most strategic commissions.

Finland’s Emma Terho heads the Athletes’ Commission. In this capacity, she also sits on the Executive Commission. Kristin Kloster from Norway chairs the Coordination Commission for the Milan-Cortina 2026 Winter Games. Zimbabwe’s Kirsty Coventry chairs the Coordination Commissions for the 2026 Youth Games in Dakar and the Brisbane 2032 Games. Another former swimmer, Nicole Hoevertsz, chairs the Los Angeles 2028 Games Coordination Commission. Burundi’s Lydia Nsekera has been appointed head of the Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Commission. Slovakia’s Danka Bartekova chairs the Marketing and Digital Engagement Commission. Finally, the former President of the Republic of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, heads the Future Host City Commission.

Now for the surprise. The IOC is determined to push ahead with e-sports without pausing, and has set up an e-sports commission. It is chaired by Frenchman David Lappartient, who is also President of the UCI and the French Olympic Committee (CNOSF). A logical choice, as the Breton has headed the IOC’s e-sport liaison group for several years.

The stated aim of the Olympic body’s new creation is “to attract new audiences and offer new opportunities to athletes and fans alike.” After two editions of the Olympic Esports Series, followed by the organisation of the first Olympic e-Sports Week in Singapore last June, the IOC is breaking new ground. Thomas Bach assures us: “The IOC is convinced that virtual sports have the potential to complement and enhance traditional Olympic sports, and that they can offer athletes and fans new opportunities to engage with the Olympic movement.” Not a foregone conclusion.

Finally, it is important to note that the IOC has not excluded Russian representatives from the 2023 event. Yelena Isinbayeva, the double Olympic pole vault champion, retains her place on the Athletes’ Commission. Elected by her peers at the Rio 2016 Games, she will complete her eight-year term in Paris next year. She also sits on the Olympic Education Commission.

Shamil Tarpishchev, President of the Russian Tennis Federation, also retains his place on the organisational chart. An IOC member since 1996, he is on the cast of the Olympism365 Commission. Ironically, Sebastian Coe, the British President of World Athletics, who is one of the most fervent opponents of Russian athletes returning to international competitions, also sits on the same commission.

The next week of IOC Commission meetings is scheduled for November. Because of its carbon impact, it will be held remotely.