Third IPC Athletes’ Forum to focus on joint strategies with the IPC

Over 100 delegates are expected to gather in Icheon, Republic of Korea from 25-27 June 2023. “The athlete's voice is not only the most prominent it has ever been in the IPC, but we at the Athletes’ Council really feel that the IPC is fully supportive of initiatives that develop athletes within the Paralympic Movement," IPC Athletes’ Council Chairperson Jitske Visser said. 28 Apr 2023
A group of about 80 people pose for a photograph.
The last in-person IPC Athletes’ Forum took place in the United States in November 2019.
ⒸCady Lowery/USOPC
By The IPC

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 Paralympic Movement. 

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 other.  

“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.