Games, Ceremonies and Protocol

  • What is the role of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in organising the Olympic Games?
    • The IOC entrusts the honour and responsibility of hosting the Games to a host elected by the IOC Session. The organisation for the Games is based on a partnership between the IOC and the Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (OCOG).

      The Olympic Games are the exclusive property of the IOC, which is the supreme authority for all matters concerning the Games. Its role is to supervise, support and monitor the organisation of the Games; ensure that they run smoothly; and make sure that the rules of the Olympic Charter and the Olympic Host Contract are respected. It is also the IOC that issues the invitation to NOCs to participate.

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  • Who organises the Olympic Games?
    • The host city’s Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (OCOG) is in charge of organising this great event.

      When the International Olympic Committee (IOC) selects a city to stage the Games, the city and the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of the host country create the OCOG which will organise the Games.

      From the moment it is created, seven years before the Games, the OCOG works closely with the IOC.

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  • Who organises the Paralympic Games?
    • The Paralympic Games are supervised by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), a body recognised by the IOC. Each edition of the Paralympic Games is under the responsibility of an organising committee.

      They are always held in the same year as the Olympic Games.

      Since the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul and the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, the Paralympic Games have been held using the same venues as the Olympic Games.

      Since the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, the same organising committee has been responsible for staging both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

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  • What role does the government of a country have in organising the Games ?
    • The three main constituent groups involved in organizing the Games are the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the National Olympic Committees (NOCs), and the International Sports Federations (IFs), not the government of the host country. 

      While the government of the host country has a role to play in supporting the bid of their city in hosting the Games, it does not take part in the Olympic Host Contract and does not issue the invitations to NOCs to participate. Invitations to the NOCs are issued only by the IOC. 

      During the opening ceremony, the Head of State of the host country is received at the entrance of the stadium by the IOC President. The IOC President then meets the HOS in the official stand. The HOS proclaims the Games open by pronouncing the following:

      - For the Olympic Summer Games: “I declare open the Games of ... (name of City) celebrating the ... Olympiad of the modern era.”
      - For the Olympic Winter Games: "
      I declare open the Games of ... (name of the host) celebrating the … (number) Olympic Winter Games.”

      No other politician is allowed to play any role whatsoever, not even during medal ceremonies. 

      Except from that, the government shall not interfere with activities related to the organization of the Games. 

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  • How do the Olympic Games opening and closing ceremonies take place?
    • The philosophy and ceremonial aspects which surround the Olympic Games distinguish them from all other international sports events. Through music, song, dance and fireworks, the opening and closing ceremonies invite people to discover the culture of the country in which the Games are taking place.

      In addition to these celebrations, there are some very precise rituals at the ceremonies. It was at the 1920 Games in Antwerp that most of this protocol was put in place. It has been developed over subsequent editions of the Games.

      Today, Rule 55 of the Olympic Charter specifies some of the protocol that has to be followed during the ceremonies and the words used by the head of state of the host country to open the Games. The other main points of the opening ceremony are:

      1.  Entrance of Head of State and IOC President
      2.  Playing of the national anthem
      3.  The parade of the athletes
      4.  The symbolic release of doves
      5.  Olympic Laurel Award
      6.  Official Speeches
      7.  Opening of the Games 
      8.  Raising  the  Olympic  flag  and  playing  the  Olympic Anthem
      9.  Athletes, judges and coaches’ oath
      10. Lighting of the Olympic flame
      11. The artistic programme

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  • What is the Olympic oath and when was it created?
    • Taken for the first time at the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp by Victor Boin, a Belgian fencer, the Olympic oath is one of the protocol elements of the Opening Ceremony. It is taken by an athlete from the host county, on behalf of all the athletes.

      This oath is similar to the one sworn by Olympic athletes in ancient times – the only difference being that today’s athletes take the oath with the Olympic flag and not the innards of a sacrificed animal.

      Since 1972, a judge has sworn an oath alongside the athlete at the Games opening ceremony; and since 2012, so too has a coach.

      The first Olympic oath at the Games of the modern era was written by Pierre de Coubertin. It has been modified over time to reflect the changing nature of sports competitions.

      In 2000, in Sydney, for the first time, the oath explicitly included a reference to doping. Since the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, the athletes’, officials’ and coaches’ oaths have been merged into one to save time during the ceremony.

      At the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the number of oath-takers will be extended from three to six – two athletes, two coaches and two judges. Each representative says their own part: “In the name of the athletes”, “In the name of all judges” or “In the name of all the coaches and officials”. Then the athlete recites on behalf of all three categories: “… we promise to take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules and in the spirit of fair play, inclusion and equality. Together we stand in solidarity and commit ourselves to sport without doping, without cheating, without any form of discrimination. We do this for the honour of our teams, in respect for the Fundamental Principles of Olympism, and to make the world a better place through sport.”

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