The third edition of the
International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletes’ Forum will be hosted by the
Korea Paralympic Committee (KPC), and take place in Icheon, Republic of Korea
from 25-27 June 2023.
The three-day event at the accessible
campus will bring together representatives from across the Paralympic Movement
to present and discuss topics that are relevant to the athletes' community,
including the recently published IPC Strategic Plan for the 2023-2026 cycle,
the new IPC Constitution and its impact on athlete representation.
Over 100 delegates are expected at
the Forum, and to ensure broad representation and promote diversity, the IPC
has implemented a Solidarity Programme to support athlete representatives from
32 eligible NPCs to attend the 2023 IPC Athletes' Forum.
The Forum will have a strong focus on
key topics that effect all athletes, such as the Paralympic Games,
classification, anti-doping, athlete wellbeing, and the advancement of the
Coming together in the Republic of
Korea will be representatives from the IPC Athletes’ Council, IPC Governing
Board, Regional Organisations, National Paralympic Committees (NPCs),
Organising Committees, World Anti-Doping Agency, and a number of IPC functional
areas that collaborate closely with athletes.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic the
last in-person IPC Athletes’ Forum took place in November 2019 at the United
States Olympic Committee (USOC) Training Centre in Colorado Springs. Before
that the inaugural Forum was held in Duisberg, Germany in 2017.
Learning from each other
After two years of conversing as an
athlete community via virtual calls, IPC Athletes’ Council Chairperson Jitske
Visser can’t wait for the Paralympians to meet in person and learn from each
“There are so many new athlete
representatives and it’s super exciting to finally meet in person. The IPC
Athletes’ Forum is a great learning opportunity to share best practices with
athletes from across the Paralympic Movement,” she said.
“There will be different levels of
NPCs around the world, from countries like mine in the Netherlands where it's a
combined organisation between Olympic and Paralympic athletes, to developing
NPCs where athletes have less support. We are determined that the Forum will be
open to ideas and input from everyone, and that by the time they leave the
athletes will feel more connected, educated, and empowered.”
In addition to learning from each
other, Visser sees it as a fantastic opportunity for the Para athlete community
to connect with the IPC. At the Forum in the addition to department leads from
functional areas across the IPC, will be CEO Mike Peters, President Andrew
Parsons, and several Governing Board Members.
“Several of the current IPC Athletes’
Council, including Martina Caironi, Birgit Skarstein and Mitch Gourley, have
attended the first two Forums and said how important it was as an event to get
to know the IPC and understand how it works, “said Visser.
“For some athletes, the IPC can seem
like this big organisation that make the rules and into which athletes have
little say. But as an IPC Athletes’ Council we’ve been impressed by how
personal the IPC is and the effort that their staff are making to ensure the
governing body supports the athlete community. For our part we have a job as
athletes to demystify the IPC more and show our fellow athletes what an
excellent job they are doing for us.”
Key discussion in Icheon
One of the key things to be discussed
in Icheon will be explaining the IPC Strategic Plan 2023-2026, and how making
the athletes central to it was a deliberate policy decision by the IPC and the
IPC Athletes’ Council.
“Since this current IPC Athletes’
Council has come together at the end of 2021, we have worked hard to have the
athlete's voice included within the overall IPC Strategic Plan. Aligning our
strategic plan with the IPC’s makes way more sense and provides us as a body
with clearer terms of reference,” explained Visser.
“The IPC started out as an
organisation serving members, but under President Andrew Parsons it’s now also
about serving members, athletes, and the wider disability community. Athletes
were one of the key stakeholders when the IPC consulted membership on what
should be the strategic priorities of the IPC from 2023-26.”
There has never been stronger athlete
representation on the IPC Governing Board than there is now. Currently there
are nine Paralympians and Para athletes on the 14-member board. This includes
IPC Athletes’ Council members Visser and First Vice Chairperson Josh Dueck.
“As a Council, not only is the
athlete's voice the most prominent it has ever been, but we really feel that
the IPC Governing Board and the IPC are supportive of initiatives that develop
athletes within the Paralympic Movement,” added Visser.
“Take the IPC General Assembly (GA)
as an example. We thought that when the Membership came together to vote on
matters affecting the Movement that it was important to hear the voices of
athletes. So now at a GA voting members are allowed to bring a third person who
is an active Paralympian. That’s great because it helps amplify the athlete’s
voice within the membership and also increases athletes’ representation and
provides them with valuable leadership experience.”
A formal invitation with further
information about the IPC Athletes’ Forum has been shared with athlete
representatives, the IPC membership, and stakeholders.