Paris Olympics: after Simone Biles’ Tokyo struggles, AI helps raise bar for mental health

Three years after gymnastics superstar Simone Biles put the mental health of athletes centre stage at the Tokyo Olympics, this year’s Paris Games will demonstrate how greater awareness has translated into better care and support.

Biles famously pulled out of most of her events in Tokyo mid-Games after struggling with mental health problems and the “twisties” – a disorienting feeling while in mid-air that is known to affect some gymnasts.

In the run-up to the start of Paris 2024 on July 26, local organisers, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and international sports federations have been keen to stress that lessons have been learned.

“Seventy per cent of Olympians only get one Olympic experience. We want to try to make sure this is the best experience they could possibly have,” said Kirsty Burrows, head of safe sport at the IOC.

For the first time ever at an Olympics, competitors in Paris will have access to a “mindfulness and relaxation area” above the main gym in the village, called the Athlete365 Mind Zone.

Competitors will be offered virtual reality headsets for meditation, sleep pods and even art activities, all in a low-lighting environment designed to be soothing and quiet.