By Steven Selthoffer, Swimming World Chief European Columnist
POREC, Croatia, October 5. ISRAELI, and former University of Michigan swimmer, Alon Mandel gave a keynote presentation at the European Olympic Committee’s Athletes Commission Conference in Porec, Croatia today, highlighting the role of the Israeli National Olympic Committee and the need to strengthen Athletes Commissions in the IOC and NOCs.
Mandel’s presentation was well received and continues to garner growing support.
Emerging from an athlete to a professional career, Mandel has demonstrated a growing concern for all athletes, helping them to find jobs and exploring new, innovative and effective solutions for athletes to better transition into a post-sport career life.
Mandel also spoke about the need for a good education to be matched with sport training. Mandel (who trained with Michael Phelps), graduated from the University of Michigan and holds multiple degrees in the USA and Israel including, B.Sc. Chemical Engineering; MSc, Environmental Engineering; MA in Political Science and is now pursuing a PhD in Energy Systems (Natural Gas).
Mandel, along with many athletes and NOCs wants to see the Athletes Commissions strengthened and the commissions spread to every NOC and NSF (national sport federation) where possible.
The Majority of Athletes Face Difficult Times
Many athletes in Europe and around the world are facing joblessness for as many as two, three, five or more years.
It is widely known that one young, Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics turned to prostitution to support herself after four years of not being able to find any work in her country. Another German athlete being cared for, was suicidal after failing to find any menial work in Germany for more than four years.
Other athletes in Eastern Europe have spoken of living off of only apples, and others survive on less than ?700 Euros a month for rent, power, food, transport and living expenses from their training stipend. Coaches are unable to be paid by the athletes making it impossible to be a top coach without holding a second or third career.
IOC Athlete Career Program
It took more than 25 years after the DDR fiasco in swimming in the Belgrade 1973 FINA World Championships to form the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and in another case, it took more than 10 years to put in place the IOC Athlete Career Program.
However, results there are dismal. Only 5-7 percent of the 5,000 or more athletes are obtaining jobs with the program. It needs to be improved desperately, and to link the IOC Athlete Career Program staff position’s remuneration with actual productive job performance.
But, thanks to Mandel and others like him, quietly working behind the scenes at their own expense to better the athletes’ lives, there is hope for the athletes who are struggling and deserve a better future.
For more information, please see: Eurolympics.org