Artificial Intelligence to protect athletes from online abuse at Paris 2024. IOC

A new Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered monitoring service will protect athletes and officials from online abuse at both the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer.

Following the launch of the Olympic AI Agenda, which outlines the intended impact of artificial intelligence on the Olympic Movement, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is demonstrating how AI can improve security in sport. Paris 2024 will be the first time that AI will be used to provide secure online spaces at such a large multi-sport event.

According to, the AI-powered system will monitor thousands of accounts in real time across all major social media platforms and in more than 35 languages. Any threats identified will be flagged so that abusive messages can be effectively dealt with by the relevant social media platforms - in many cases before the athlete has even had a chance to see the abuse.

IOC President Thomas Bach said, "Athletes are at the heart of everything we do. The athletes have a unique and valuable perspective on how the Games should be organised and on the issues that affect them in competition. I am delighted that the Athletes' Commission and the Medical and Scientific Commission are responding to this feedback through initiatives such as the AI system to protect athletes at Paris 2024 from online abuse." 

A joint project of the IOC Athletes' Commission and the IOC Medical and Scientific Commission, the system will not only prioritise the safety and well-being of athletes throughout the Games, but will also help the IOC to better understand the challenges athletes face in relation to online abuse, enabling it to further improve the protection of athletes at future events. 

IOC President Thomas Bach has hailed the use of AI to protect athletes. IOC
IOC President Thomas Bach has hailed the use of AI to protect athletes. IOC

The introduction of this new monitoring platform at Paris 2024 is part of the IOC's commitment to safe sport and, according to Kirsty Burrows, Head of the IOC's Safe Sport Unit, highlights how online abuse has become a key challenge. "Sport and social media are inextricably linked. For Paris 2024, we expect around half a billion posts. There are so many fantastic opportunities for athlete engagement, but unfortunately online violence is inevitable. This is a challenge for us, because a safe sporting environment must also mean a safe digital environment," she said at the Olympic AI Agenda. 

The online monitoring system will be available to 15,000 athletes and more than 2,000 officials at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. It will be a key part of what Burrows calls "a package of safety systems" to ensure a safe online and offline environment during the Games, with the aim of supporting and promoting the physical and mental health and well-being of athletes so they can focus on competing in the biggest event of their sporting careers. 

"This package of initiatives is designed to try and ensure that the Olympic Games is a safe space," explains Burrows. "These systems are in place so that the athletes can really focus on their performance, and they know that everything else is taken care of." As well as providing a safe online space for participants, the platform will also help the IOC better understand online abuse and develop strategies to tackle the problem. 

"This is the first time this solution will be used to protect so many people in so many sports. By using AI, we'll be able to better understand online violence in sport and develop data-driven strategies and interventions to create physically and psychologically safe environments for athletes," said the Head of the IOC's Safe Sport Unit.

By successfully protecting athletes at Paris 2024, Burrows hopes this can drive positive change on an larger scale: "Creating a safe space in a bubble at the Games is one thing, but the whole world is watching, so the risk of abuse can be very high. Using AI to protect people from online harm is a great step, but the challenge is that it's not just a sports issue. We all need to work together to make a difference and to create safer online spaces." 

The AI-powered tool was successfully piloted during Olympic Esports Week, where it monitored targeted, abusive content posted on the social media of the players. This included identifying slurs, offensive images, emoticons or phrases that could indicate abuse. It then analysed more than 17,000 public posts, flagging 199 potentially abusive messages from 48 authors targeting the accounts of 122 players and two IOC officials. A total of 49 posts were verified as abusive by a team of experts against an agreed definition of discriminatory abuse and flagged for action via the social media platforms. 

The pilot study helped the IOC to understand the scope, scale and seriousness of the issue of online discriminatory abuse and threats publicly directed at athletes on social platforms, and provided a blueprint for ongoing monitoring, analysis and action. The protection systems for Paris 2024 include the presence of IOC Safeguarding Officers in the Olympic Village during the Games to follow up on all reported incidents of harassment and abuse. 

Kirsty Burrows, Head of the IOC's Safe Sport Unit. IOC
Kirsty Burrows, Head of the IOC's Safe Sport Unit. IOC

The IOC is also offering a quota of Welfare Officer accreditations to all delegations at the Games for registered and nationally certified mental health professionals and/or internationally certified safeguarding practitioners, while IOC educational materials and other information on harassment and abuse in sport will be made available to athletes and other participants before, during and after the Games. 

During Paris 2024, a dedicated mental health helpline will also be made available to all participants for four years, while the Athlete365 Mind Zone, a first of its kind for the Games, will provide a place for athletes to mentally prepare and create a safe space for honest conversations about mental health and safeguarding with trained staff. 

Recent steps to improve safety across the Olympic Movement include the creation of a $10 million (9.3 million euro) fund per Olympic Games to strengthen prevention and response to abuse and harassment in sport at the local level, and the establishment of two pilot Regional Safety Centres in Southern Africa and the Pacific Islands, which will help build on existing initiatives in these regions.