Dear Olympic Friends,

What an Olympic year lies behind us. As we welcome a new year, we can look back with pride and satisfaction on 2022. It was an Olympic year that was as successful as it was turbulent.

It was greatly successful because, with the truly exceptional Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, we have written history together. These Olympic Winter Games faced unprecedented challenges against the backdrop of political tensions and a global pandemic. Despite this, these Games offered the most outstanding conditions for the athletes in an absolutely safe and secure environment.

The athletes expressed their gratitude by stepping up and amazing the world with their response to all the challenges and adversity. They showed all of us the best that humankind can be, if we come together in peace and solidarity.

With this outstanding performance, they touched the hearts of so many people. In fact, more than two billion people around the world followed these Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. This makes Beijing 2022 the most digitally engaged Olympic Winter Games in history. Following Beijing 2022, the Olympic Games continue to be the most appealing sports and entertainment event in the world. This is confirmed by independent research, which has also shown that the Olympic rings remain one of the most widely recognised symbols globally.

“Give Peace a Chance” – this was my appeal to the political leaders across the world in my opening and closing speeches in Beijing. As it turned out, the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 were but a fleeting moment of hope that peace would prevail in our turbulent times.

Only three days after the Closing Ceremony of Beijing, Russia invaded Ukraine in a blatant violation of the Olympic Truce and the Olympic Charter.

The IOC immediately condemned the war and sanctioned the Russian and Belarusian states and governments in an unprecedented way. These sanctions include:

  • No international sports events being organised or supported in Russia or Belarus.
  • No national symbols whatsoever of these countries being displayed at any sports event or meeting.

These sanctions against the Russian and Belarusian states and governments must and will remain firmly in place.

At the same time, we are supporting the athletes and members of the Ukrainian Olympic community everywhere with all our solidarity. Also in the new year, the Ukrainian athletes can count on the full commitment to this solidarity from the IOC and the entire Olympic Movement. We want to see a strong team from the NOC of Ukraine at the Olympic Games Paris 2024 and the Olympic Winter Games Milano Cortina 2026. 

On the other hand, following the outbreak of the war, many athletes, National Olympic Committees, International Federations and the IOC were exposed to political pressure and interference. Some governments started to decide which athletes would be allowed to participate in international sport competitions – and which athletes would not.

This is why, in addition to the sanctions, we had to take protective measures to ensure the integrity of international sport competitions. This led the IOC to act against our mission to unify the entire world in peaceful competition, since we had to prohibit athletes from participation because of their passport only.

Thankfully, there have been in the meantime many encouraging statements and declarations from a number of individual world leaders, supporting our unifying Olympic mission.

In this respect, the recent adoption of the “Sport as an enabler of sustainable development” resolution by the United Nations General Assembly on the 1st of December stands out.

This resolution highlights that the unifying and conciliative nature of major international sports events should be respected by all the member states. What is more, the resolution was passed by consensus by all members of the UN General Assembly, which is remarkable, as this includes Russia and Ukraine.

Such encouraging signs of support give us all the more reason to promote our unifying mission with our full determination – and it gives us hope that it will bring us closer to being able to once again fully live up to the mission of sport to unite the entire world in peaceful competition.

In this spirit, we can look ahead to 2023 with hope and optimism. All the support from all walks of life for our peace-mission shows: the power of sport as a force for good in the world is widely acknowledged – and it is needed more than ever. Especially in a time when division and conflict is gaining ground over dialogue and cooperation – in a time, when, tragically, it is not people but the guns of war that are doing the talking.

2023 is a pre-Olympic year. The athletes will concentrate on qualifying for the Olympic Games Paris 2024. All of us – the IFs, the NOCs, the national federations, the IOC and the entire Olympic community – all of us will support and assist them to be able to give it their best.

One of the ways in which we are doing so is with the Olympic Qualifier Season, highlighting the great achievements of the athletes on the road to Paris 2024. The Olympic Qualifier Season is ongoing and already now has generated over 100 million additional engagements across Olympic social media platforms – thereby promoting the athletes and their sports in new and exciting ways.

Another highlight of how we are opening new horizons and reaching new audiences with our values will be the inaugural Olympic Esports Week in 2023. Held in Singapore next June, the Olympic Esports Week will be the next major step for us to engage even deeper with the young generation.

Thanks to the great preparation by the Paris 2024 Organising Committee, we can look forward to Olympic Games of a new era: inspired by Olympic Agenda from start to finish. The Olympic Games Paris 2024 will be more inclusive, more youthful, more urban, more sustainable – and they will be the very first Olympic Games with full gender parity. And all of this in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

This positive momentum is something that we can carry into the new year. Our values, our solidarity, our unity, our peace-mission – all this makes our beloved Olympic Movement so unique. This is the solid foundation on which we can build our future – on which we can build a better and more peaceful world through sport.

So let us join hands to go faster, aim higher, become stronger – together.

In this true Olympic spirit, I wish you all a happy, healthy and successful pre-Olympic year 2023.

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