IOC President Thomas Bach insisted "athletes are the heart of our Olympic community" ©OCA

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has opened the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) Athletes' Forum here by praising the continental body for its work in engaging athletes in decision making.

The OCA is staging its Athletes' Forum jointly with the IOC's Olympic Solidarity programme, and IOC Athletes' Commission chair Emma Terho is among the guests in attendance.

Bach began proceedings by delivering a video message to the 88 participants from 43 countries gathered in Thailand's capital.

With the Forum held under the banner "we place athletes at the heart of everything we do", Bach expressed his belief that athletes should play a leading role in sports administration.

"Athletes are not only at the heart, athletes are the heart of our Olympic community," he said.

"This is why this OCA Athletes' Forum is first and foremost an opportunity for you, the athletes, to make your voices heard on the issues that affect all of you.

"Sitting at the table where the decisions are made, with a voice and with a vote – this is the most impactful representation any person can have.

"You deserve this right, and as representative of your peers, you must be involved in all decision making that impacts an athlete's life."

Bach then lavished praise on the OCA for the work of its Athletes' Commission and emphasis on athletes' voice.

"Athletes have an important responsibility to lead by example," the IOC President said.

"This is why I am so pleased to see how OCA, through its Athletes' Commission, is doing exactly that.

"Leading by example, empowering athletes and being at the heart of the action.

"Today I would like to congratulate all of your, and in particular your chair Kotani Mikako.

"I would also like to thank everyone at OCA for the important work that you do in supporting athletes and promoting sport and its values all across Asia.

"As you, my dear fellow athletes, have shown us, we can only go faster, aim higher, become stronger if we stand together in solidarity.

"Therefore, your Forum is the perfect illustration of this, our new Olympic motto: faster, higher, stronger, together."

OCA director general Husain Al-Musallam said
OCA director general Husain Al-Musallam said "we want to hear the voices of everyone" at the Athletes' Forum ©OCA

OCA director general Husain Al-Musallam explained the importance of the Athletes' Forum in his opening remarks.

"We engage with 95 International Federations and Asian Federations," the Kuwaiti official said.

"At the Hangzhou Asian Games in September there will be 61 sports with around 15,600 athletes taking part.

"Then, in Bangkok in November at the sixth Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, there will be 36 sports and around 10,000 athletes.

"We want to hear the voices of everyone at this Athletes Forum and to know how we can serve you better.

"It is important for all of us to grow together."

The Athletes' Forum is due to continue today and tomorrow.

It will feature discussions on safeguarding, the prevention of the manipulation of competitions, athlete career development and the fight against doping.

Russian and Belarusian athletes' potential participation at the delayed Asian Games in Hangzhou is also likely to be a talking point.