The latest special issue of the Human Rights Defender launches this week, examining the human rights of athletes and how those rights are protected and contested within the Olympic movement.

This issue goes to publication in the weeks left vacant by the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games, which would have been flooding our screens and news channels if not for COVID-19.

Guest Editor Dr Natalie Galea and Student Editor Rouein Momen open this issue by calling for a stronger commitment to rights protection and improvement of athletes’ representation within the Olympic movement.

‘Athletes stand at the intersection of sport and human rights,’ they write. ‘International sport, with its global reach, is an important place to role model good human rights practices.’

This issue contains stories from athletes hailing from each of the continents represented by the Olympic rings. These accounts are interspersed with analyses from experts in the human rights and sports space, many of whom are Olympians themselves. They cover diverse topics like gender discrimination and the pay gap, the dire consequences in some countries of athletes being vocal human rights defenders, and the harsh restrictions on Olympic athletes that prevent them from commercialising their own names or expressing their own opinions.

This issue aims to centre the personal voices of athletes, and celebrate their contributions to this area as well as shine a light on the challenges they face.

‘Athletes are the product who we, consumers, watch. And, in a world where sport is a business, athletes are the worker… [they] are a valuable commodity to the Olympic business.’

An online discussion to launch the issue also explores how elite sport is grappling with the COVID-19 crisis and adapting to the growing demands to respect athletes’ rights.

In this challenging context of business during crisis, the sporting industry has an even higher responsibility to protect the rights of the athletes on whose backs it is carried.

Human Rights Defender is proudly produced by the Australian Human Rights Institute at UNSW Sydney, with an interdisciplinary team of editors and students from UNSW Law. The magazine is free and available online at, by academic subscription through HeinOnline, InformIT and EBSCO.

Read the magazine online at:

And watch the webinar launch, moderated by Craig Foster, on YouTube:

Laura Melrose