The IOC as the owner of the Olympic Games

The objective is to ensure that human rights principles are upheld in the selection process, and the organisation and delivery of the Olympic Games. The IOC works in close collaboration with the Organising Committees for the Olympic Games (OCOGs) and Youth Olympic Games organisers, and supports them in the implementation of these principles.

In 2017, as part of the implementation of Olympic Agenda 2020, the IOC adopted new procedures to ensure that Olympic Games-related activities minimise negative impacts on people while maximising positive ones.

1 - Election of Future Hosts

The new approach to electing Olympic and Paralympic hosts includes a Future Host Questionnaire, which has a section on human rights. Preferred Hosts are required to describe how they will seek to identify and address adverse human rights impacts, in line with the UNGPs, throughout the lifecycle of the Olympic Games.

In addition, an independent human rights assessment of the Preferred Host country is part of the IOC procedure to help inform the selection of the Future Host.

In addition, the IOC analyses the human development context of the city and country, leveraging third-party independent expertise and specific human development indicators to measure this, in addition to the other aspects that are assessed (geopolitical, economic, sport, and sustainability).

2 - Organisation and delivery of the Olympic Games

Protection of and respect for human rights form an important dimension of the organisation and delivery of the Olympic Games, in addition to or complementing the existing requirements on sustainability, inclusion, good governance, accountability and transparency.

As a result, the Olympic Host Contract has been strengthened with the inclusion of a dedicated requirement for OCOGs and hosts to “protect and respect human rights and ensure any violation of human rights is remedied in a manner consistent with international agreements, laws and regulations applicable in the Host Country and in a manner consistent with all internationally recognised human rights standards and principles, including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), applicable in the Host Country”.

The Olympic Host Contract comes with a series of more detailed requirements, which specify the activities each Organising Committee has to carry out. These include a policy commitment towards human rights, and the development of a comprehensive human rights strategy that covers all its operations – in close collaboration with the host city and country and partners.

This should be based on human rights due diligence and identification of all critical risks and the availability of remedies for affected individuals; ongoing engagement with potentially affected groups such as workers, the media, local communities and athletes; and effective and transparent public communication, including to any affected populations, about human rights challenges and actions. This may cover issues such as migrant workers, labour conditions, displacement of local population, discrimination, child safeguarding, peaceful assembly and media freedom. The aim is also to ensure that the protection of and respect for human rights also align with a number of other key principles of organising the Games, such as sustainability, good governance, inclusive practices, accountability and transparency.

Regarding the Youth Olympic Games (YOG), the Host Contract includes similar provisions. Furthermore, the YOG Edition Plan, which details the operational requirements, includes a dedicated section on respect for human rights obligations. Expected deliverables include ongoing consultations with (potentially) affected stakeholders, and a resulting Human Rights Action Plan that details the prevention and mitigation measures to address adverse human rights impact risks. In the event of such impacts, the YOG Organising Committee is expected to ensure access to effective remedy mechanisms for each category of the most vulnerable stakeholders.

These requirements apply to the Olympic Games from 2024 onwards.

Case studies:

Paris 2024

Dakar 2026

3 - Prior to 2024

With regard to the Olympic Games prior to 2024, for which the bidding process took place before Olympic Agenda 2020 was approved, the IOC recognises and upholds human rights principles enshrined in both the Olympic Charter and the IOC Code of Ethics, and through the sustainability and responsible sourcing commitments in the Host City Contract.

Case study:

Beijing 2022

4 - Monitoring and Due Diligence

The IOC works closely with the OCOGs to support them in delivering on  human rights-related requirements. The IOC monitors the implementation of the Olympic Charter, the Olympic Host Contract and candidature commitments. This is done through a regular reporting process that is set up at different levels: from the technical team and the various IOC departments all the way up to the Coordination Commission and ultimately the IOC Executive Board. 

The IOC monitoring process involves requesting the disclosure of policies, processes and procedures, as well as their related impacts on affected stakeholders. Discussions are held regularly with partners with a view to strengthening the measures that have been planned and to request clarifications or further implementation when they do not meet our contractual requirements. When concerns directly related to the Olympic Games are raised during the preparation phase, the IOC hears them and addresses them with the OCOGs via the IOC Coordination Commission and technical teams from the various IOC departments.

5 - Athlete expression during the Olympic Games

The IOC is fully supportive of freedom of expression, as is highlighted in the Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration. Rule 50.2 of the Olympic Charter provides for the protection of the neutrality of sport at the Olympic Games and the neutrality of the Olympic Games themselves.

The updated Rule 50.2 guidelines were released in June 2021, following an extensive consultation with the global athletes’ community, which involved 3,500 athletes, 185 different National Olympic Committees and all 41 Olympic sports. Men and women were represented equally in the consultation.

Athletes can express their views in the mixed zones, in the International Broadcasting Centre, at the Main Media Centre, during press conferences and interviews, at team meetings, and in traditional and digital media.  Athletes can also express their views on the field of play before the competition starts, provided that the expression is (i) consistent with the Fundamental Principles of Olympism, (ii) not targeting people, countries, organisations and/or their dignity, (iii) not disruptive and (iv) not prohibited or otherwise limited by the rules of the relevant National Olympic Committee and/or the competition regulations of the relevant International Federation.

When expressing their views, athletes are expected to respect the applicable laws, the Olympic values and their fellow athletes. Any behaviour and/or expression that constitutes or signals discrimination, hatred, hostility or the potential for violence on any basis whatsoever is contrary to the Fundamental Principles of Olympism.

The Rule 50.2 guidelines restrict the expression of athletes only in the following instances: on the podium, at the opening and closing ceremonies, during competition and in the Olympic Village. This is done to ensure that the focus remains on sport during those specific, limited moments, and to provide respectful conditions in the Olympic Village so that all athletes can live together.

6 - Broadcasting and media coverage

We recognise the power of sport in society and make sure that most people can enjoy the Olympic Games through independent and free coverage. We do that in two ways: 

Broadcasting: how we generate content – free from influence

The coverage of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is produced by Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS), an IOC affiliate, and not by the OCOGs.  All broadcasters get the material from OBS directly. It is important to stress that the Olympic Host Contract requests that there is no interference with the work of OBS. This ensures full and fair coverage of the Olympic Games at all times. 

Media coverage – free from interference 

All Host Contracts include strict clauses that are aimed at ensuring the international media coverage of the Games and Games-related events. In addition, the IOC accredits the journalists who cover the Games and has a specific media hotline in place for if there are complaints about media freedom during the Games. 

The IOC as the leader of the Olympic Movement

National flag bearers enter the stadium during the Closing Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
The IOC works closely with the Olympic Movement, especially the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and International Federations (IFs) on human rights matters.
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The IOC as an organisation

The IOC is taking a number of steps to deliver on its human rights responsibilities in its own operations. It has increased the alignment and coherence of its existing strategies on sustainability, gender equality and inclusion with human rights standards.
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Respecting Human Rights

At all times, the IOC recognises and upholds human rights, as enshrined in both the Fundamental Principles of the Olympic Charter and the IOC Code of Ethics.
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