Olympic Games: Roles and Responsibilities

Read more to find out about the purpose of the Olympic Games; the role and remit of the IOC and the Olympic Movement; and the responsibilities of the hosts and organisers.

  • What are the Olympic Games all about?
    • - The Olympic Games are the world’s most powerful symbol of unity in all our diversity, with the participation of teams from 206 National Olympic Committees and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team. They send a powerful message of diversity, inclusion and non-discrimination as athletes from all races, religions, ethnicities and cultures compete with each other and live together in harmony in the Olympic Village.

      - There are no countries participating in the Olympic Games, but rather athletes from 206 NOCs who are supporting the mission of the Olympic Games to unite the world in peaceful competition.

      - At the Olympic Games, some 10,500 of the best athletes in the world from 206 NOCs and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team are competitors in sport, but at the same time they live peacefully together under one roof in the Olympic Village.

      - At the Olympic Winter Games, some 2,800 of the world’s best winter sports athletes from more than 90 NOCs are competitors in sport, but at the same time they live peacefully together under one roof in the Olympic Village.

      - Non-discrimination has been at the core of the Olympic Games since the days of the IOC’s founder, Pierre de Coubertin, who said: “We shall not have peace until the prejudices that now separate the different races are outlived. To attain this end, what better means is there than to bring the youth of all countries periodically together for amicable trials of muscular strength and agility?”

      - The Olympic Games always build bridges and never erect walls. In our fragile world, the power of the Olympic Games to bring the whole world together, despite all the existing differences, gives us all hope for a better future.

      - The Games help to keep a people-to-people communication channel open between people from different nations and separate from politics. 

      - It is the IOC’s mission to unite the world in peaceful competition and foster an atmosphere of peace, development, resilience, tolerance and understanding.

      - In order to achieve this mission, the IOC and the Olympic Movement need to stay neutral and beyond politics.

      - This was recognised in several United Nations resolutions in the past and just recently again.

      - The resolutions support the independence and autonomy of sport, as well as the mission of the IOC and of the Games.

  • What is the responsibility and the remit of the IOC and the Olympic Movement?
    • - The IOC’s remit covers the Olympic Games and their regular celebration, as per the Olympic Charter and in accordance with the IOC Code of Ethics.


      - The Olympic Games are governed by the rules of the IOC, not by the government of the host country.


      - The IOC requires that the hosts fully respect the Olympic Charter and the Olympic Host Contract in all activities related to the organisation of the Olympic Games.


      - The Olympic Charter/Olympic Host Contract include provisions on non-discrimination, access to the country for media accredited by the IOC, freedom of reporting, freedom of expression, open internet, etc.


      - Working closely with OCOGs to address all issues, including sensitive ones related to the Games.


      - Within its remit, the IOC takes its responsibility very seriously.


      - Outside its remit, the IOC has no mandate and no capability to change the laws or political system of sovereign countries.


      - As a global organisation, the IOC must include all countries, notwithstanding the inevitable existence of political differences. It must be consistent and non-judgmental regarding the right of countries to govern themselves as they consider best for their own societies, whether or not other countries disagree or disapprove.


      - The IOC issues the invitation to NOCs to participate – the invitations do not come from the government of the host country. (The host country’s head of state says only one sentence, specified in the Olympic Charter, to officially open the Games. No other politician is allowed to play any role whatsoever, not even during medal ceremonies.)

  • Does the IOC pay countries or cities to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games?
    • - The IOC gives no money to governments, but exclusively to the Organising Committees for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (including any revenue derived from sponsorship or broadcast rights), and assists the Organising Committees in many other ways, including through transfer of knowledge and management of the host broadcasting operations. Furthermore, it ensures the organisation of the Paralympic Games and supports their funding. As per the Olympic Host Contract, the IOC requires that all Organising Committees provide annual financial statements certified by an independent certified public accountant.


      - The IOC makes a significant contribution to the success of each edition of the Olympic and Paralympic Games:

      - Tokyo 2020 – USD 1.7 billion
      - Beijing 2022 – USD 880 million
      - Paris 2024 – USD 1.7 billion
      - Milano Cortina 2026 – USD 925 million
      - Los Angeles 2028 – USD 1.8 billion
      - For the Youth Olympic Games, the IOC also provides a contribution to the Organising Committees. For the YOG to be held in Dakar, Senegal, in 2026, the IOC will contribute USD 90 million.


      - 90 per cent of the IOC’s revenue is re-distributed to the global Olympic Movement. This means USD 3.4 million daily.


      - The entirety of the global Olympic sponsors’ financial support directly or indirectly benefits Olympic and Paralympic athletes and hopefuls. All of the sponsor support provided to Olympic and Paralympic Games organisers is used solely to stage the Games and support athletes from around the world, either through the provision of products, services, technology, expertise and staff deployment, or via the funding of facilities to support athletes, including sports facilities, athlete accommodation, food and health services.


      - The IOC raises and distributes funds not only to ensure the celebration of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, but also to encourage the regular practice of sport by all people in society, regardless of sex, age, social background or economic status.


      - IOC revenue raised from global sponsorship and global broadcast rights is distributed through direct IOC contributions to different sports organisations throughout the Olympic Movement, as well as various IOC activities, projects and programmes aimed at supporting the staging of the Games and promoting the worldwide development of sport and the Olympic Movement.

  • What has the IOC changed since the start of the Olympic Agenda 2020 reforms at the end of 2014 in its approach to human rights and other fundamental rights when awarding the Games?
    • - The IOC’s remit was and still is to ensure respect for human rights insofar as they apply to Olympic Games-related activities.

      - Human rights requirements have been strengthened in the Future Host Questionnaire. Preferred Hosts are required to describe how they will seek to identify and address adverse human rights impacts, in line with international standards, including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), throughout the lifecycle of the Games. An independent human rights review of the Preferred Host is also part of the IOC procedure to help inform the Future Host Commission’s work.

      - The new approach to electing a host includes the human development context of the city and country, and leverages 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).

      - 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 2018 “Operational Requirements” of the Olympic Games also include stronger provisions protecting human rights related to the operations of the Games, and require OCOGs to adopt a policy commitment and develop and implement a comprehensive human rights strategy that covers all their operations, in close cooperation with the host city and country, and all their partners. These requirements apply to the hosts from 2024 onwards.

      - In 2017, as part of the implementation of Olympic Agenda 2020, the IOC adopted new procedures to ensure that Games-related activities further minimise negative impacts on people while maximising positive ones, in order to ensure that respect for human rights can become an important dimension of the success of Games. It will be applied from Paris 2024 onwards, as these Games were awarded after the adoption of the new procedure.

      - Respect for human rights aligns with a number of other key principles in the organisation of the Games, such as sustainability, good governance, inclusive practices, accountability and transparency. This is closely related to many other areas, such as venues, people management, health and safety, sustainability and legacy.

  • How do you ensure that the OCOGs comply with the requirements?
    • At all times, the IOC recognises and upholds human rights as enshrined both in the Fundamental Principles of the Olympic Charter and in its Code of Ethics. The IOC is responsible for ensuring respect for the Olympic Charter with regard to the Olympic Games and takes this responsibility very seriously.

      Respect for the Olympic Charter is part of the Olympic Host Contract, and by signing the Olympic Host Contract, hosts are committing to respect the Olympic Charter in the context of the Games. Important provisions related to respect for human rights in the conduct of Games-related activities are included in the Host Contract.

       

      The IOC engages with all OCOGs on a number of topics in relation to Games operations, including those that have human rights implications, such as labour conditions and procurement, diversity and inclusion, health and environment, media coverage of the Games, peaceful assembly and protest, relocation of populations displaced by Olympic constructions, privacy and use of personal data.

       

      The IOC monitors and regularly holds discussions with the OCOGs with a view to strengthening the measures that have been planned, and requests clarifications or further implementation when the OCOGs do not meet our contractual requirements.

       

      There is an IOC reporting tool for press freedom violations at the Games in place. You can find it here.

       

      The IOC has established an escalation mechanism with all Organising Committees through the Coordination Commission. All complaints can be brought to the immediate attention of the Organising Committee through this process. Other stakeholders can raise their topics with the IOC, which will then take them up with the Organising Committee too.

       

      At the same time, the IOC has neither the mandate nor the capability to change the laws or the political system of a sovereign country. This must rightfully remain the legitimate role of governments and respective intergovernmental organisations. The situation of human rights outside the Olympic Games’ activities is beyond the IOC’s remit.