The World Olympians Asociation is an independent global organization representing Olympians. It was created following the Centennial Olympic Congress’ Congress of Unity in Paris in 1994. The WOA is formally recognized by the International Olympic Committee under Rule 4 of the Olympic Charter.
Upon his election as President of the WOA, Mr. Pal Schmitt expressed his goal to increase the number of members in order to achieve a universal representation of national associations of Olympic athletes in the WOA. It is his expressed desire to involve Olympians in Olympic activities in their own countries to educate young people, promote Ollympic ideals and strengthen the Olympic Movement. He believes that the WOA is becoming the fourth pillar of the Olympic Movement together with the other three: the International Olympic Committee ( IOC), the International Federations and the National Olympic Committee (NOC).
The officers of the WOA are:
Honorary President: Mr. Juan Antonio Samaranch, Spain
President: Mr. Pal Schmitt, Hungary
Vice Presidents: Dr. Elizabeth A.E. Ferris, Great Britain; Dr. William A. Toomey, United States
Secretary General: Dr. Liston D. Bochette, Puerto Rico
Executive Committee Members: Mr. Herb Elliot, Australia; Mr El Hadj, Amadou Dia BA, Senegal, and Mrs Irena Szewinska, Poland
The medium/long term objectives of the WOA, which the Executive Board is now pursuing, include the following:
Further growth in the membership with the ultimate goal being to include every country recognized by the IOC which has an Olympian living within its territory. The WOA has the names and brief information on every Olympian since 1896. Direct liaison with the National Association of Olympic Athletes (NAOA) to indicate both domestic and international activities in which Olympians may become involved. The WOA Executive Board has indicated its strong support for the involvement of Olympians worldwide in the IOC’s humanitarian and environment activities. The WOA is also active in supporting the IOC in its policy development regarding women in sport. The WOA has commenced discussions with the IOC and SOCOG with regard to the special interest of Olympians in connection with the celebration of a particular Games i.e. Olympians to be allowed to participate in the Torch Relay, have access (at normal cost) to tickets to their own event and to be included as volunteers as possible, etc. The IOC has initiated the concept of the Olympians Reunion Center in Atlanta – a great success that the WOA hopes to be able to promote in future Games.
The WOA hopes to be able to assist NAOAs in conjunction with NOCs in the development of Olympian affinity cards which may provide benefits to Olympians – hotels, travel etc. The WOA is currently working on a model to be used globally.
At its most recent meeting, the Executive Board resolved to work towards the globalization of the Olympic Job Opportunity Program which now operates in a small number of countries. The WOA feels that the program should include all Olympians – not only active elite competitors. This process will need to be developed via NOCs and the NAOAs.
Although the exact number of Olympians since 1896 is relatively clear, it is not clear as to the number of Olympians who are still alive. President Samaranch has sent letters to all Olympians via the NOCs – the only method of directly contacting the Olympians. This is apparently the first time that an IOC President has directly corresponded individually with all Olympians.
The IOC has guaranteed free admission to the Olympic Museum to all Olympians upon production of the IOC participants pin.
The WOA does not see itself as a bureaucracy to mirror the IOC but rather as a catalyst to stimulate involvement of Olympians in the activities of the Olympic Movement, particularly in the framework established by the IOC and the NOCs. Olympians are the greatest resource of the IOC and have an enormous potential contribution to make. As a group, they are the greatest role models in the world.
It is estimated that there are slightly more then 60,000 living Olympians around the world. To be an Olympian is one of the most significant achievements that any person can realize during his or her lifetime. Hopefully, the creation of the WOA and its respective members, the NAOAs, will retain and strengthen the involvement of Olympians around the world within the Olympic Movement.
The IOC may well regard the Olympians as its strongest arm in the quest to contribute to a more harmonious, peaceful, prosperous and enjoyable world.