Editor's note: Nicholas McGeehan is co-director of human rights research and advocacy group FairSquare, which works among other things on the nexus between sport and authoritarianism. He is a former senior researcher at Human Rights Watch and holds a PhD in international law from the European University Institute in Florence.
Boycotts, divestments and sanctions are each controversial and contentious in their own right, but when combined under the right conditions, they have explosive potential. BBC football presenter Gary Lineker found this out to his cost when he retweeted a call from Palestine’s BDS movement to suspend Israel from FIFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) until such time the Israeli state ends what they called “the crime of genocide it is perpetrating in Gaza” and its occupation of Palestinian territory. Lineker quickly deleted his retweet but not before the UK’s most popular right-wing tabloid newspaper, The Daily Mail, spotted it and renewed their fulminating campaign against Lineker’s support for political causes that run contrary to the Mail’s editorial positions. The Daily Mail does not oppose sporting boycotts, in fact judging from an article by its football columnist, Martin Samuel, it was an ardent supporter of Russia’s ejection from European football in the aftermath of its invasion of Ukraine. “Why should Russian football get to be part of the continent in which it has murdered innocents?,” asked Samuel and in that regard he was not alone and was echoing views heard across the political divide in the west at the time.
The west continues to boycott Russia, its companies have divested from Russia, and its governments are sanctioning Russia. This includes in the sporting arena where nobody batted an eyelid when Russian football teams were excluded from FIFA and UEFA competition, and its athletes excluded from IOC competition. So it seems obvious that it is not so much BDS tactics that offend people in certain quarters, but rather their target. Russia can be BDS’d until the cows come home, but BDS’ing Israel is beyond the pale. You can see how it might be hard to explain to a child.
Through an examination of the widely divergent responses to Russia’s actions in Ukraine and Israel’s actions in Gaza, this piece argues that FIFA and the IOC have aligned themselves with the political positions of the countries of the global north. With reference to previous sporting boycotts, it demonstrates how an absence of rules has left FIFA and the IOC sailing rudderless into stormy geopolitical waters and argues that they need to institute rules to guide their responses to events of this gravity and magnitude. Dispensing once and for all with the canard that sport and politics can be kept apart would enable sport’s governing bodies to appropriately leverage their political power and not merely act as puppets of the global north. More...
On Wednesday 14 July 2021 from 16.00-17.30 CET, the Asser International Sports Law Centre, in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret, is organizing a Zoom In webinar on Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter and the right to free speech of athletes.
As the Tokyo Olympics are drawing closer, the International Olympic Committee just released new Guidelines on the implementation of Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter.
The latter Rule provides that ‘no kind of demonstration or political,
religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues
or other areas’. The latest IOC Guidelines did open up some space for
athletes to express their political views, but at the same time continue
to ban any manifestation from the Olympic Village or the Podium. In
effect, Rule 50 imposes private restrictions on the freedom of
expression of athletes in the name of the political neutrality of
international sport. This limitation on the rights of athletes is far from uncontroversial
and raises intricate questions regarding its legitimacy,
proportionality and ultimately compatibility with human rights standards
(such as with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights).
This webinar aims at critically engaging with Rule 50 and its
compatibility with the fundamental rights of athletes. We will discuss
the content of the latest IOC Guidelines regarding Rule 50, the
potential justifications for such a Rule, and the alternatives to its
restrictions. To do so, we will be joined by three speakers, Professor Mark James from Manchester Metropolitan University, who has widely published on the Olympic Games and transnational law; Chui Ling Goh, a Doctoral Researcher at Melbourne Law School, who has recently released an (open access) draft of an article on Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter; and David Grevemberg, Chief
Innovation and Partnerships Officer at the Centre for Sport and Human
Rights, and former Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation
- Prof. Mark James (Metropolitan Manchester University)
- Chui Ling Goh (PhD candidate, University of Melbourne)
- David Grevemberg (Centre for Sport and Human Rights)
Free Registration HERE
Editor's note: Rusa Agafonova is a PhD Candidate at the University of Zurich, Switzerland
The Olympic Games are the cornerstone event of the Olympic Movement as a
socio-cultural phenomenon as well as the engine of its economic model. Having worldwide
exposure, the Olympic Games guarantee
the International Olympic Committee (IOC) exclusive nine-digit sponsorship
deals. The revenue generated by the Games is later redistributed by the IOC
down the sports pyramid to the International Federations (IFs), National
Olympic Committees (NOCs) and other participants of the Olympic Movement through
a so-called "solidarity mechanism". In other words, the Games
constitute a vital source of financing for the Olympic Movement.
Because of the money involved, the IOC is protective when it comes to
staging the Olympics. This is notably so with respect to ambush marketing which
can have detrimental economic impact for sports governing bodies (SGBs) running
mega-events. The IOC's definition of ambush marketing covers any intentional and
non-intentional use of intellectual property associated with the Olympic Games as
well as the misappropriation of images associated with them without authorisation
from the IOC and the organising committee.
This definition is broad as are the IOC's anti-ambush rules.More...
Editor's note: Yuri Yagi is a sports lawyer involved in Sports Federations and Japanese Sports Organizations including the Japan Equestrian
Federation (JEF), the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), the Japanese
Olympic Committee (JOC), the Japan Sports Council (JSC) and the All-Japan High School Equestrian Federation.
Japan has held
three Olympic Games since the inception of the modern Olympics;Tokyo Summer
Olympic Games in 1964, Sapporo Winter Olympic Games in 1972, and Nagano Winter
Olympic Games in 1998. Therefore, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (Tokyo 2020) are supposed to
be the fourth to be held in Japan, the second for Tokyo. Tokyo 2020 were
originally scheduled for 24 July 2020 to 9 August 2020. Interestingly, the word
‘postpone’ or ‘postponement’ does not appear in the Host City Contract (HCC).
However, the International
Olympic Committee (IOC), the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG), the Japanese
Olympic Committee (JOC), and the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and
Paralympic Games (TOCOG) decided on 24 March 2020 that Tokyo 2020 would be
postponed because of the pandemic of COVID-19. Later on, the exact dates were fixed
‘from 23 July 2021 (date of the Opening Ceremony) to 8 August 2021 (date of the
The process of the
decision is stipulated in the ‘ADDENDUM N° 4’ signed by IOC, TMG, JOC and TOCOG.
This paper provides
an overview of the current situation, along with legal and other issues in
Japan that have arisen due to the postponement of Tokyo 2020 due to COVID-19.
The overview is offered from the perspective of a citizen of the host city and
includes a consideration of national polls, the torch relay, vaccination,
training camps, ever increasing costs, and the related provisions in the
Candidature File and the Host City Contract. More...
Editor's note: Anna Antseliovich heads the sports practice at the Moscow-based legal group Clever Consult. She also works as a senior researcher at the Federal Science Center for Physical Culture and Sport (Russia).
The Olympic Games have always been a source of
genuine interest for spectators as Olympians have repeatedly demonstrated astounding
capacity of the human body and mind in winning Olympic gold, or by achieving
success despite all odds.
At the ancient and even the first modern
Olympic Games, there was no concept of a national team; each Olympian represented
only himself/herself. However, at the 1906 Intercalated Games for
the first time, athletes were nominated by the National Olympic Committees
(‘NOCs’) and competed as members of national teams representing their
respective countries. At the opening ceremony, the athletes walked under the
flags of their countries. This was a major shift, which meant that not only the
athletes themselves competed against each other, but so too did the nations in
unofficial medal standings.
The nomination and selection of athletes by their
NOCs to compete under their national flag and represent their country is a
matter of pride for the vast majority of athletes. However, to what extent does
such a scheme correspond to the ideals which the Olympic Games were based on in
ancient times? Is it possible to separate sport and politics in the modern
Editor's note: Lindsay Brandon is Associate Attorney at Law Offices of Howard
“Tell the white people of America and
all over the world that if they don’t seem to care for the things black people
do, they should not go to see black people perform.” – American sprinter and Olympic Medalist John Carlos
On 21 April 2021, the Athletes’ Commission
(AC) of the International Olympic Committee (“IOC”) received
the “full support of the IOC Executive Board for a set of recommendations in
regard to the Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter and Athlete Expression at the
Olympic Games.” This came over a year after the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games were
postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and almost a year after the IOC and AC
embarked on an “extensive qualitative and quantitative” consultation process to
reform Rule 50 involving over
3,500 athletes from around the globe.
Since its introduction of the new
guidelines in January 2020, Rule
50 has been touted by the IOC as a means to protect the neutrality of sport
and the Olympic Games, stating that “No kind of demonstration or political,
religious or radical propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues, or
other areas.” In other words, the
Olympics are a time to celebrate sport, and any political act or demonstration
might ruin their “moment
In fact, the Rule 50 Guidelines say
that a fundamental principle of sport is that it is neutral, and “must be
separate from political, religious or any other type of interference.” But this
separation is not necessarily rooted in totality in modern sports culture,
particularly in the United States (“U.S.”).
This is evidenced by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee
to not sanctioning Team USA athletes for protesting at the Olympics. The
USOPC Athletes stated “Prohibiting athletes to freely express their views
during the Games, particularly those from historically underrepresented and
minoritized groups, contributes to the dehumanization of athletes that is at
odds with key Olympic and Paralympic values.” More...
Editor's note: Prof. Dr. Ekşi is a full-time lecturer and chair of
Department of Private International Law at Özyeğin University Faculty of Law.
Prof. Ekşi is the founder and also editor in chief of the Istanbul Journal
of Sports Law which has been in publication since 2019.
Women In Sports Law (WISLaw) is an international, non-profit association based in Switzerland and aimed at promoting women in the sports law sector, through scientific and networking events, annual meetings and annual reports. WISLaw’s objectives are to raise awareness of the presence, role and contribution of women in the sports law sector, enhance their cooperation, and empower its global membership through various initiatives.
This year, WISLaw has partnered with the Asser International Sports Law Blog to organise a special blog symposium featuring WISLaw members. The symposium will entail both the publication of a series of blog posts authored by WISLaw members, and a virtual webinar (accessible at https://lnkd.in/dgWsy6q with the Passcode 211433) to promote discussion on the selected topics. Article contributions were invited on the topic of legal issues surrounding the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. In the midst of a pandemic and the rise of social justice movements around the world, the Games and their organisation gave rise to a number of interesting legal issues and challenges, which will be explored through a variety of lenses.
We hope that you enjoy and participate in the discussion.
note: Thomas Terraz is a L.LM. candidate in
the European Law programme at Utrecht University and a former intern of the Asser International Sports Law Centre
1. Sport Nationalism is Politics
Despite all efforts, the
Olympic Games has been and will be immersed in politics. Attempts to shield the
Games from social and political realities are almost sure to miss their mark
and potentially risk being disproportionate. Moreover, history has laid bare
the shortcomings of the attempts to create a sanitized and impenetrable bubble
around the Games. The first
blog of this series examined the idea of the Games as a sanitized space and
dived into the history of political neutrality within the Olympic Movement to
unravel the irony that while the IOC aims to keep the Olympic Games ‘clean’ of
any politics within its ‘sacred enclosure’, the IOC and the Games itself are largely
enveloped in politics. Politics seep into the cracks of this ‘sanitized’ space through:
(1) public protests (and their suppression by authoritarian regimes hosting the
Games), (2) athletes who use their public image to take a political stand, (3) the
IOC who takes decisions on recognizing national Olympic Committees (NOCs) and awarding
the Games to countries,
and (4) states that use the Games for geo-political posturing. With
this background in mind, the aim now is to illustrate the disparity between the
IOC’s stance on political neutrality when it concerns athlete protest versus
sport nationalism, which also is a form of politics.
As was mentioned in part
one of this series, the very first explicit mention of politics in the Olympic
Charter was in its 1946 version and aimed to combat ‘the nationalization of
sports for political aims’ by preventing ‘a national exultation of success
achieved rather than the realization of the common and harmonious objective
which is the essential Olympic law’ (emphasis added). This sentiment was
further echoed some years later by Avery Brundage (IOC President (1952-1972))
when he declared: ‘The Games are not, and must not become, a contest between
nations, which would be entirely contrary to the spirit of the Olympic Movement
and would surely lead to disaster’. Regardless
of this vision to prevent sport nationalism engulfing the Games and its
codification in the Olympic Charter, the current reality paints quite a
different picture. One simply has to look at the mass obsession with medal
tables during the Olympic Games and its amplification not only by the media but
even by members of the Olympic Movement.
This is further exacerbated when the achievements of athletes are used for domestic
political gain or when they are used to
glorify a nation’s prowess on the global stage or to stir nationalism within a
nationalism is politics. Arguably, even the worship of national imagery during
the Games from the opening ceremony to the medal ceremonies cannot be
depoliticized. In many ways, the IOC has turned
a blind eye to the politics rooted in these expressions of sport nationalism
and instead has focused its energy to sterilize its Olympic spaces and stifle political
expression from athletes. One of the ways the IOC has ignored sport nationalism
is through its tacit acceptance of medal tables although they are expressly
banned by the Olympic Charter.
At this point, the rules restricting
athletes’ political protest and those concerning sport nationalism,
particularly in terms of medal tables, will be scrutinized in order to highlight
the enforcement gap between the two. More...