IOC governance model to ensure organisational integrity

Who does what?

The IOC was the first sports organisation to set up an independent Ethics Commission in 1999. The Ethics Commission establishes the Code of Ethics and, in the event of a violation of the ethical principles, analyses complaints and proposes sanctions. It also delivers advice to the IOC on the implementation of the ethical principles.

In 2015, following Olympic Agenda 2020 recommendations, the IOC created the Ethics and Compliance Office. Its mission is primarily preventive, providing information and education on the ethical principles, but also advisory, serving the entire Olympic Movement, to help achieve better application of the ethical principles and rules across various levels.

In addition, the Ethics and Compliance Office analyses all complaints, denunciations and acts brought to its attention and which may constitute a breach of the ethical principles of the Olympic Charter, the IOC Code of Ethics or its Implementing Provisions.
If any failure to comply with the ethical principles is suspected, this Office, headed by the Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer, performs an initial compliance analysis. Where the suspicion seems founded and the Ethics Commission has jurisdiction, such cases are then referred to the Ethics Commission. The Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer then conducts the investigation to allow the Ethics Commission to carry out its task of analysis.

A dedicated IOC Audit Committee looks after risk management, financial reporting, compliance, control and governance within the IOC. It is supported by the IOC’s Chief Internal Auditor and oversees all IOC entities, including the Olympic Foundation for Culture and Heritage, the Olympic Foundation, Olympic Solidarity, IOC Television and Marketing Services, Olympic Broadcasting Services and Olympic Channel Services.

There are other IOC Commissions which advise the IOC Session, the IOC Executive Board or the IOC President in areas related to organisational integrity. A good example is the IOC Finance Commission, which provides counsel on the IOC’s financial management to safeguard continuity and strengthen the transparency and good governance of the IOC and the Olympic Movement. The Finance Commission is supported by the IOC Finance Department and, like the Audit Committee, oversees all IOC entities.

Olympic House IOC

The IOC Risk and Assurance Governance Model

The IOC considers its risk and assurance system as a core element of its governance model. An effective risk and assurance governance model helps the IOC to reduce potential risks and to take advantage of opportunities, while also ensuring the fulfilment of its missions and objectives.

The IOC follows the internationally recognised “three lines of defence” model for risk management.

It distinguishes three groups with different roles and responsibilities: 

The first line of defence is the operational functions that own and manage risks. These are embedded in the IOC’s day-to-day activities.  IOC departments ensure that risks are identified, reported, evaluated and responded to in a timely manner. 

The second line of defence is the managerial functions that help build and/or monitor the first line of defence controls. This serves as an oversight function within the IOC administration, ensuring that controls, frameworks, policies and procedures are set up, aligned with the IOC’s objectives, and implemented throughout the administration. 

The third line of defence is the independent functions that provide assurance to the organisation’s governing bodies and to the Director General on how effectively the organisation assesses and manages its risks, including the way the first and second lines of defence operate. The independence of these functions is critical to guaranteeing their objectivity. The third line of defence for IOC governance comes under the authority of the President, and the Ethics Commission and Audit Committee. It includes the Ethics and Compliance Office and audit functions.

The external audit is also part of the governance structure and is conducted in accordance with Swiss law and Swiss Auditing Standards, as well as the International Standards on Auditing. Those standards require that the audit is planned and performed to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the combined financial statements are free from material misstatement. The financial statements of the IOC are prepared according to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), even though the IOC is not legally required to do so.


To learn more about the IOC Risk and Assurance Governance Model as well as the IOC’s Internal Control System and Corporate Security, please consult the IOC Annual Report 2016.

Education and training for IOC administration and IOC Members

On a regular basis, the Ethics and Compliance Office informs and educates the IOC administration, IOC Members and IOC Commission members about the IOC’s ethical principles with which they need to comply. Recent activities include:

  • education about the updated staff regulations, which strengthen existing formalities and include a robust code of conduct, based on the IOC Code of Ethics;
  • an e-learning module on ethics for all staff;
  • an awareness programme (including real-life scenarios, as well as past experiences) on all ethical matters, including conflicts of interest, delivered to all the IOC Members, IOC staff and directors;
  • information about the dedicated “Alert Transmission Mechanism”, which IOC staff must use in the event of concerns about possible unethical conduct to alert the Ethics and Compliance Office;
  • customised ethics training for IOC Members; and
  • wide dissemination of the Code of Ethics across various stakeholder groups.
IMD report

Given the continuing evolution of good governance practice, the IOC also asked the world-recognised International Institute for Management Development (IMD) to undertake research into good governance at the IOC. The IOC worked with experts from the IMD’s Global Board Centre to compile the research. 

The review shows that while, in most areas, the IOC is building on the solid governance structures and processes strengthened by Olympic Agenda 2020, introducing reinforced practices in certain areas would enable it to build its resilience and leadership position, fulfil its mission to society in its fullest capacity and serve as a best-in-class example in a global arena in need of positive governance examples. 

In accordance with its mission, the Audit Committee has been following up on the implementation of IMD’s recommendations and has assessed, with management, the feasibility, extent and timeframe of their implementation within the context of the IOC. The implementation of many of the IMD recommendations has already been achieved, and key accomplishments include the improvement of the declaration of interests from Executive Board members and IOC top management, awareness training on ethical matters delivered to all IOC Members and employees, strengthening of the Ethics Commission with the review of the Statutes and the Rules of Procedure and the appointment of a new independent Chair, and the creation of a new HR Committee.

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