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The IOC always wins

Apr 10, 2014
Image caption:
© miss604 /

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is a private association registered under Swiss law, and has been based in Lausanne since 1915. The IOC awards the Olympic Games and is the “owner” of the Olympic symbols and the Games. There are no grand ethical treatises or discourses on the philosophy of sport to be found in the Olympic Charter. On the contrary, the Charter and the Host City Contract regulate the terms and conditions for awarding the Summer or Winter Olympics – and do so in the most meticulous detail. Ultimately, it’s all about money, and more and more of it. Like world football’s governing body FIFA with the World Cup, the IOC compels every government wishing to stage the Olympic Games to grant it tax exemption. This private association under Swiss law is a de facto global corporation, negotiating with states and organisations such as the UN and possessing a quasi-diplomatic status, unhindered and untroubled by criminal law or international conventions.

Willing candidates accept every condition

The magic word “Olympic Games” prompts nation states and potential host cities to agree to all the IOC’s terms and conditions right from the outset, even though the IOC’s business practices are regarded as highly controversial. The IOC uses the willingness of candidates to host the Games in order to dictate terms that business partners in normal business life would neither demand nor accept. The candidate cities sign on the dotted line practically as legal predecessors of the Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (OCOG), even though they are not accorded the right to exert any influence whatsoever. OCOG plans, finances and stages the actual Games. This includes the organisational costs and the costs for temporary facilities. The OCOG budget includes revenue from TV rights, marketing rights, lottery and coin issue programmes, and IOC contributions. The entire residual risk is borne by the government, the country and the host cities. All the permanent facilities such as the infrastructure and all that remains and is not immediately dismantled must be financed by the host cities.

Unreasonable and oppressive contracts

The drafts of IOC contracts with candidate cities were described as unreasonable and oppressive by the legal experts of the Federal Province of Salzburg in their assessment of the Host City Contract for Salzburg (2014 candidature) (Axel Doering, Gesellschaft für ökologische Forschung e.V.). The IOC has sole discretionary power to decide what proportion of the net income from the marketing programme and the sale of broadcasting rights – as the main revenue streams – it cedes to OCOG. The IOC has the option of retaining payments of up to 25 per cent, at its sole discretion, in the event of OCOG’s failure to honour its obligations. The IOC reserves the right unilaterally to amend its technical guidance documents, handbooks and other guidelines, the contents of which are entirely undefined and currently not known to OCOG, and compels OCOG among others to adapt to these amendments. Without the IOC’s consent, OCOG may not amend the capacity, contents, location, structure or design of the hosting venues and/or Olympic Village proposed in its candidacy. This means that the candidacy dossier is binding on the authorities vis-à-vis the IOC even before standard planning permission procedures for the Olympic facilities have been undertaken.
Source: (de)