Asser International Sports Law Blog

Our International Sports Law Diary
The Asser International Sports Law Centre is part of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut

New Event! Zoom In on International Skating Union v. European Commission - 20 January - 16.00-17.30 (CET)

On Wednesday 20 January 2021 from 16.00-17.30 CET, the Asser International Sports Law Centre, in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret, is organising a Zoom In webinar on the recent judgment of the General Court in the case International Skating Union (ISU) v European Commission, delivered on 16 December 2016. The Court ruled on an appeal against the first-ever antitrust prohibition decision on sporting rules adopted by the European Commission. More specifically, the case concerned the ISU’s eligibility rules, which were prohibiting speed skaters from competing in non-recognised events and threatened them with lifelong bans if they did (for more details on the origin of the case see this blog). The ruling of the General Court, which endorsed the majority of the European Commission’s findings, could have transformative implications for the structure of sports governance in the EU (and beyond).

We have the pleasure to welcome three renowned experts in EU competition law and sport to analyse with us the wider consequences of this judgment.


Guest speakers:

Moderators:


Registration HERE


Zoom In webinar series

In December 2020, The Asser International Sports Law Centre in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret launched a new series of zoom webinars on transnational sports law: Zoom In. You can watch the video recording of our first discussion on the arbitral award delivered by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in the Blake Leeper v. International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) case on the Asser Institute’s Youtube Channel. Click here to learn more about the Zoom In webinar series.

Revisiting FIFA’s Training Compensation and Solidarity Mechanism - Part. 3: The Curious Non-Application of Training Compensation to Women’s Football – By Rhys Lenarduzzi

Editor’s note: Rhys Lenarduzzi is a final semester Bachelor of Law (LL.B) and Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) student, at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, Australia. As a former professional athlete, then international sports agent and consultant, Rhys is interested in international sports law, policy and ethics. He is currently undertaking an internship at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on Transnational Sports Law.

 

As recently as September 2020, questions were raised in the European Parliament on the non-application of training compensation to women’s football. Whilst this blog will predominantly consider potential inconsistencies in reasoning for and against training compensation in men’s and women’s football, the questions before the Commission were largely on the theme of disrespect and discrimination. Somewhat unfortunately, the questions raised were side-stepped, with Ms Gabriel (Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth) simply stating that: “The TFEU does not give the Commission the competence to interfere in the internal organisation of an independent international organisation such as FIFA.” This might be true in theory, though one might feel some degree of uneasiness if privy to the Commission’s role in the 2001 FIFA regulatory overhaul.

It is currently explicit in the regulations and the commentary, that in women’s football, signing clubs are not required to compensate training clubs for developing players, through the training compensation mechanism that exists in men’s football. Though it is a contentious comment and as will be expanded below, this may not have always been the case.

At Article 20 of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP), one will find that the principles of training compensation shall not apply to women’s football. Further, in FIFA’s recently released Women’s Football Administrator Handbook (the handbook), it states that disputes relating to training compensation are limited for the moment to male players only.[1]

Regulations on solidarity contributions on the other hand do apply to women’s football, but given transfer fees are not so common, the use of the mechanism is not either. As an indication of how uncommon the activation of the solidarity contribution mechanism in women’s football might be, FIFA reported in the handbook just four claims with the Players’ Status Department in 2016 (three claims involving the same player), and zero since.[2] That is in comparison to hundreds of claims made per season in men’s football, where signing and owing clubs had not fulfilled their obligation to pay the solidarity contribution.

Given the aforementioned, this blog will largely focus on training compensation and how it came to be the case that this mechanism, often presented as critical in the context of men’s football, does not apply in women’s football. To do so, I will first discuss the reasoning advanced in an unpublished CAS award, which one may reasonably suspect played a fundamental role in shaping the current exemption. I will then turn to FIFA’s timely response to the award and the adoption of its Circular No. 1603. Finally, I will point out the disconnect in FIFA’s decision to adopt two radically different approaches to the issue of training compensation in male and female professional football. More...


New Event! Zoom In on Transnational Sports Law - Blake Leeper v. IAAF - 4 December at 4pm (CET)

The Asser International Sports Law Centre in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret is launching a new series of zoom webinars on transnational sports law: Zoom In. The first discussion (4 December at 16.00) will zoom in on the recent arbitral award delivered by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in the Blake Leeper v. International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) case.

In this decision, reminiscent of the famous Pistorius award rendered a decade ago, the CAS panel ruled on the validity of an IAAF rule that places the burden on a disabled athlete to prove that a mechanical aid used to compete in IAAF-sanctioned competitions does not give them an overall competitive advantage. While siding with the athlete, Blake Leeper, on the burden of proof, the CAS panel did conclude that Leeper’s prosthesis provided him an undue advantage over other athletes and hence that the IAAF could bar him from competing in its events.

To reflect on the key aspects of the decision and its implications, we have invited scholars with different disciplinary backgrounds to join the zoom discussion. 

Confirmed guests

 Moderators


The webinar is freely available, but registration here is necessary.

Last call to register to the 2021 edition of the Sports Law Arbitration Moot - Deadline 1 December

Dear all,

Our Slovenian friends (and former colleague) Tine Misic and Blaž Bolcar are organising the second edition of the Sports Law Arbitration Moot (SLAM).

The best four teams of the SLAM competition will compete in the finals, which will be held in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on 30th and 31st March, 2021.

This is a great opportunity for students to familiarise themselves with the world of sports arbitration, to meet top lawyers and arbitrators in the field, and to visit beautiful Ljubljana.

Go for it!

You'll find more information and can register at https://sportlex.si/slam/en

Pistorius revisited: A comment on the CAS award in Blake Leeper v. IAAF - By Marjolaine Viret

On 23 October 2020, a panel of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (‘CAS’) rendered an award in the matter opposing Mr Blake Leeper (‘Mr Leeper’ or ‘the Athlete’) to the International Association of Athletics Federation (‘IAAF’).[1] The CAS panel was asked to make a ruling on the validity of the IAAF rule that places on a disabled athlete the burden to prove that a mechanical aid used to compete in IAAF-sanctioned competitions does not give such athlete an overall competitive advantage.

The award is remarkable in that it declared the shift of the burden of proof on the athlete invalid, and reworded the rule so that the burden is shifted back on the IAAF to show the existence of a competitive advantage. Thus, while the IAAF won its case against Blake Leeper as the panel found that the sport governing body had discharged its burden in casu, the outcome can be viewed as a victory for disabled athletes looking to participate in IAAF-sanctioned events. It remains to be seen how this victory will play out in practice. Beyond the immediate issue at stake, the case further presents an illustration of how – all things equal – assigning the burden of proof can be decisive for the real-life impact of a policy involving complex scientific matters, as much as the actual legal prerequisites of the underlying rules.

This article focuses on some key aspects of the award that relate to proof issues in the context of assessing competitive advantage. Specifically, the article seeks to provide some food for thought regarding burden and degree of proof of an overall advantage, the contours of the test of ‘overall advantage’ designed by the CAS panel and its possible bearing in practice, and potential impact of the ruling on other areas of sports regulations such as anti-doping.

The award also analyses broader questions regarding the prohibition of discrimination in the regulation of sports, as well as the interplay with international human rights instruments such as the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’), which are not explored in depth here. More...

Revisiting FIFA’s Training Compensation and Solidarity Mechanism - Part. 2: The African Reality – By Rhys Lenarduzzi

Editor’s note: Rhys Lenarduzzi is a final semester Bachelor of Law (LL.B) and Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) student, at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, Australia. As a former professional athlete, then international sports agent and consultant, Rhys is interested in international sports law, policy and ethics. He is currently undertaking an internship at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on Transnational Sports Law.


Having considered the history and justifications for the FIFA training compensation and solidarity mechanisms in my previous blog, I will now consider these systems in the African context. This appears to be a worthwhile undertaking given these global mechanisms were largely a result of European influence, so understanding their (extraterritorial) impact beyond the EU seems particularly important. Moreover, much has been written about the “muscle drain” affecting African football and the need for such drain to either be brought to a halt, or, more likely and perhaps more practical, to put in place an adequate system of redistribution to ensure the flourishing of African football that has essentially acted as a nursery for European football for at least a century. In the present blog, I intend to draw on my experiences as a football agent to expand on how FIFA’s redistributive mechanisms function in practice when an African player signs in Europe via one of the many kinds of entities that develop or purport to develop talent in Africa. I will throughout address the question of whether these mechanisms are effective in a general sense and more specifically in relation to their operation in Africa.More...



International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – October 2020 - By Rhys Lenarduzzi

Editor’s note: Rhys Lenarduzzi is a final semester Bachelor of Law (LL.B) and Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) student, at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, Australia. As a former professional athlete, then international sports agent and consultant, Rhys is interested in international sports law, policy and ethics. He is currently undertaking an internship at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on Transnational Sports Law.


The Headlines

Aguero and Massey-Ellis incident: An Opportunity for Change and Education?

In mid-October a clip went viral of Argentinian star Sergio Aguero putting his hands on sideline referee, Sian Massey-Ellis. A heated debate ensued in many circles, some claiming that Aguero’s conduct was commonplace, others taking aim at the appropriateness of the action, around players touching official and a male touching a female with an unsolicited arm around the back, the squeeze and pull in. Putting the normative arguments aside for a moment, the irony of the debate was that all sides had a point. Football, almost exclusively, has grown a culture of acceptance for touching officials despite the regulations. Male officials who have let such conduct slide, have arguably let their female colleague down in this instance.

Whilst a partial defence of Aguero might be that this kind of conduct takes place regularly, the incident could serve as a learning experience. If Massey-Ellis’ reaction was not enough, the backlash from some of the public might provide Aguero and other players the lesson, that touching a woman in this way is not acceptable.

Returning to football, the respect and protection of officials in sport, the key here appears to be cracking down on touching officials entirely. This is not a foreign concept and football need only look at the rugby codes. Under no circumstances does the regulations or the culture permit that a player from the rugby codes touch a referee. It is likely the case that the obvious extra level of respect for officials in these sports derives from a firm culture of no touching, no crowding officials, communicating with officials through the team captain only, with harsh sanctions if one does not comply.

The Football Association of England has decided no action was necessary, raising questions of how seriously they take the safety of officials, and gender issues. This is ultimately a global football issue though, so the confederations or international bodies may need step in to ensure the protections that appear at best fragile.  


Rugby Trans issue

The World Rugby Transgender guideline has been released and contains a comprehensive unpacking of the science behind much of the regulatory framework. Despite many experts applauding World Rugby on the guidelines and the extensive project to reach them, the England Rugby Football Union is the first to defy the World Rugby ruling and transgender women will still be allowed to play women’s rugby at all non-international levels of the game in England for the foreseeable future. This clash between national bodies and the international body on an important issue is concerning and will undoubtedly be one to keep an eye on.

 

CAS rejects the appeal of Munir El Haddadi and the Fédération Royale Marocaine de Football (FRMF)

The refusal to authorise a footballer to change national federation is in the headlines with the CAS dismissing the appeal of the player and Moroccan federation, confirming the original determination of the FIFA Players’ Status Committee.

This has been given considerable recent attention and seemingly worth following, perhaps best summed up by FIFA Director of Football Regulatory, James Kitching, where in a tweet he notes: “The new eligibility rules adopted by the FIFA Congress on 18 September 2020 have passed their first test. We will be publishing our commentary on the rules in the next fortnight. Watch this space.” More...



Revisiting FIFA’s Training Compensation and Solidarity Mechanism - Part.1: The historical, legal and political foundations - By Rhys Lenarduzzi

Editor’s note: Rhys Lenarduzzi is a final semester Bachelor of Law (LL.B) and Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) student, at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, Australia. As a former professional athlete, then international sports agent and consultant, Rhys is interested in international sports law, policy and ethics. He is currently undertaking an internship at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on Transnational Sports Law.


In 2019, training compensation and solidarity contributions based on FIFA’s Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP) amounted to US$ 75,5 million. This transfer of wealth from the clubs in the core of the football hierarchy to the clubs where the professional players originated is a peculiar arrangement unknown in other global industries. Beyond briefly pointing out or reminding the reader of how these systems work and the history behind them, this blog series aims to revisit the justifications for FIFA-imposed training compensation and the solidarity mechanism, assess their efficacy and effects through a case study of their operation in the African context, and finally analyse the potential impact of upcoming reforms of the FIFA RSTP in this context.

First, it is important to go back to the roots of this, arguably, strange practice. The current transfer system and the legal mechanisms constituting it were largely the result of a complex negotiation between European football’s main stakeholders and the European Commission dating back to 2001. The conclusion of these negotiations led to a new regulatory system enshrined in Article 20 and Annex 4 of the RSTP in the case of training compensation, and at Article 21 and Annex 5 in the case of the solidarity mechanism. Before paying some attention to the historical influences and how we arrived at these changes, as well as the justifications from the relevant bodies for their existence, let us briefly recall what training compensation and the solidarity mechanisms actually are. More...



Invalidity of forced arbitration clauses in organised sport…Germany strikes back! - By Björn Hessert

Editor's note: Björn Hessert is a research assistant at the University of Zurich and a lawyer admitted to the German bar.

 

The discussion revolving around the invalidity of arbitration clauses in organised sport in favour of national and international sports arbitral tribunals has been at the centre of the discussion in German courtrooms.[1] After the decisions of the German Federal Tribunal[2] (“BGH”) and the European Court of Human Rights[3] (“ECtHR”) in the infamous Pechstein case, this discussion seemed to have finally come to an end. Well…not according to the District Court (LG) of Frankfurt.[4] On 7 October 2020, the District Court rendered a press release in which the court confirmed its jurisdiction due to the invalidity of the arbitration clause contained in the contracts between two beach volleyball players and the German Volleyball Federation[5] (“DVV”) – but one step at a time. More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – September - October 2020 - By Rhys Lenarduzzi


The Headlines


Human rights and sport  

Caster Semenya

Human rights issues are taking the headlines in the sporting world at present. A short time ago, Caster Semenya’s appeal at the Swiss Federal Tribunal against the CAS decision was dismissed, perhaps raising more questions than answering them. Within the last few days however, the message from the Semenya camp has been that this is not over (see here).  See the contributions from a range of authors at Asser International Sports Law Blog for a comprehensive analysis of the Semenya case(s) to date.

Navid Afkari

As the sporting world heard of the execution of Iranian Wrestler Navid Afkari, a multitude of legal and ethical questions bubbled to the surface. Not least of all and not a new question: what is the responsibility of sport and the governing bodies therein, in the space of human rights?  And, if an athlete is to acquire a high profile through sporting excellence, does that render athletes vulnerable to be made an example of and therefore in need of greater protection than is currently afforded to them? There are differing views on how to proceed. Consider the following from the World Players Association (Navid Afkari: How sport must respond) and that from the IOC (IOC Statement on the execution of wrestler Navid Afkari) which shows no indication through this press releases and other commentary, of undertaking the measures demanded by World Players Association and other socially active organisations. (See also, Benjamin Weinthal - Olympics refuses to discuss Iranian regime’s murder of wrestler).

Yelena Leuchanka

As this is written and relevant to the above, Yelena Leuchanka is behind bars for her participation in protests, resulting in several sporting bodies calling for her immediate release and for reform in the sporting world around how it ought to deal with these issues. As a member of the “Belarus women's national basketball team, a former player at several WNBA clubs in the United States and a two-time Olympian”, Leuchanka has quite the profile and it is alleged that she is being made an example of. (see here)

Uighur Muslims and Beijing Winter Olympics

British Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab does not rule out Winter Olympics boycott over Uighur Muslims. ‘The foreign secretary said it was his "instinct to separate sport from diplomacy and politics" but that there "comes a point where that might not be possible".’ Though Raab’s comments are fresh, this issue is shaping as a “watch this space” scenario, as other governments might echo a similar sentiment as a result of mounting pressure from human rights activist groups and similar, in lead up to the Winter Games. More...



Asser International Sports Law Blog | Fear and Loathing in Rio de Janeiro – Displacement and the Olympics by Ryan Gauthier (Thompson Rivers University)

Asser International Sports Law Blog

Our International Sports Law Diary
The Asser International Sports Law Centre is part of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut

Fear and Loathing in Rio de Janeiro – Displacement and the Olympics by Ryan Gauthier (Thompson Rivers University)

‎Editor's Note: Ryan is Assistant Professor at Thompson Rivers University, he defended his PhD at Erasmus University Rotterdam in December 2015. His dissertation examined human rights violations caused by international sporting events, and how international sporting organisations may be held accountable for these violations.

Introduction

On Sunday, August 21, the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro will end. The spotlight will dim not only on the athletes who return to their home countries to ply their trade in relative obscurity, but also on the country of Brazil.[1] Once the Games have ended, life will go ‘back to normal’, although for many residents of Rio de Janeiro, what is ‘normal’ is anything but.


Watching the opening ceremonies from the favelas – Andrej Isakovic via Getty Images


“A New World” for Favela Residents

While the world has been preoccupied with Zika, the Brazilian corruption crisis, the cesspool that is Guanabara Bay, and the worrying state of some of the sporting venues, the displacement of persons is perhaps the largest problem not only facing the Games, but is the largest one caused (or at least exacerbated) by the Games themselves. Since Rio de Janeiro was selected to be the host of the Olympic Games in 2009, over 77,000 individuals (22,000 families) have been evicted from their homes. Most, if not all, of these individuals were evicted from their homes in the favelas, or slums, communities that began to appear in earnest in the 1970s as Brazil, and Rio de Janeiro in particular, began to urbanize. Currently, favelas are home to 1.4 million people, or about 22% of Rio’s population. It is very likely that not all of these evictions were related to the Games directly. City officials have stated that only Vila Autodromo was directly-affected by the Games, as this particular favela was turned into a parking lot for the Olympic Park and twenty homes for those who refused to leave (Reuters provides a good before/after comparison).


Vila Autodromo (Olympic Park under construction) - Genilson Araújo / Parceiro/O Globo


However, seemingly taking their cue from Rio 2016’s slogan, “Um mundo novo” (“A New World”), city officials have used the Olympic Games as an excuse to ‘re-imagine’ the city on a broader scale. In a 2012 interview, the mayor of Rio stated that “The Olympics pretext is awesome; I need to use it as an excuse for everything…Now all that I need to do, I will do for the Olympics. Some things could be really related to the Games, others have nothing to do with them.” As such, people from favelas that have nothing to do with the Games have been evicted from their homes, with the Games creating the pseudo-state of ‘emergency’ that has, in other cities that have hosted the Games, been used as an excuse to bypass normal procedures and do away with normal protections, in the mold of Naomi Klein’s “shock capitalism”.

The Rio government has claimed to offer financial packages and resettlement options for those who were displaced. These compensation packages were imperfect, as the government offered less than market value for the homes, and those who were relocated may have been relocated anywhere from several to dozens of kilometers away from their former residence, uprooting their businesses or employment, and their social and family lives. However, the relocation policy appears to be the velvet glove concealing the iron fist. For those who resisted relocation, the city cut off their water, and halted garbage pickup and postal service, while violent clashes between residents and police have also been reported. While not directly-related to evictions, but closely related to conditions in the favelas, there has been a reported spike in police killings of street children to “clean the streets” ahead of the Games. While new housing is being built in Rio, much of it is set to be high-end condos, not affordable housing.


International Standards Regarding Housing

The focus of this particular blog post is not the legality of the displacement, per se. That is an issue best addressed by Brazilian lawyers. However, there are international standards that Brazil should live up to. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises a right to own property, and prohibits the arbitrary deprivation of property. Another international instrument of wide application, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), recognises a right to an adequate standard of living. The ICESCR Committee, in its General Comments in 1991 and 1997, has interpreted this standard to include a right against forced evictions. If an eviction does occur, rights to information and participation by those who are affected arise. Finally, when an eviction does take place, a right to compensation and adequate resettlement attaches.

The case of Rio seems to suggest that forced evictions have likely occurred, based on the sheer scale of those who were evicted. Given the timeline of preparing for the Games, provisions on notice and information appear to have been curtailed or cancelled altogether, given that the city went to work on evicting persons immediately after Rio was awarded the right to host the Games in 2009. While some residents, particularly of Vila Autodromo, received compensation and alternative housing, in many cases there appears to be disagreement as to whether compensation has been offered at all with locals saying they have not received compensation, while city authorities deny evicting families without compensation. Actions such as police raids, and cutting off public services also suggest the evictions approach the threshold of ‘forced’ rather than voluntary/negotiated. Regardless of whether the letter of these international standards has been violated, the scope and pace of the evictions is of great concern.


IOC Stance Regarding Displacement

In particular, it should be distressing to readers to see the International Olympic Committee (IOC) seemingly stand by while these evictions occur in the name of the Games. And it is not as if the IOC has no clue that evictions take place due to the Games. For many Games, at least some displacement occurs to make way for infrastructure, while the 2008 Beijing Games saw an estimated 1.25 million people evicted due to Olympic-related projects.

The IOC has responded to the problems of displacement, pledging in 2009 to intervene with the Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (the OCOG – the actual body that is responsible for Games’ preparations) in situations where people who were displaced due to Olympic venue construction were ‘mistreated’. However, the IOC has not said anything publicly in regards to the evictions, and there is no public information regarding any IOC intervention.

Following the IOC’s Agenda 2020, and its recommendations on ‘social sustainability’, the IOC now requires cities bidding to host the Olympics to identify projects that may require displacement of existing communities, and to confirm that the procedures used to displace persons will conform to national and/or international standards. However, promises made by host cities are not always lived up to, as can be seen by Rio’s failed promises to treat 80% of the water flowing into Guanabara Bay, and treating only 21% on the eve of the Games. Rio is apparently also able to get away with such failed promises consequence-free, despite the risk of harm to athletes competing in and around the waters.


The Games Cannot Fix All Ills, But They Should Avoid Creating New Ones…

Ultimately, the largest problem with the Olympic Games is a lack of accountability. The IOC, an organisation based in Switzerland, holds the rights to the Games and selects the host city, but does not actually organise the Games. As such, the IOC often appears to act as though what happens ‘on the ground’ is neither its concern nor its responsibility. Those who actually organise the Games, particularly the OCOG and Host City (the National Olympic Committee of the host country also participates, but is not relevant here), often have limited accountability to those who are harmed by the Games. The OCOG disbands shortly after the Games are over, leaving the Host City holding the bag. The Host City’s accountability is entirely dependent on the political and legal structures of the country, and in countries like Russia (Sochi 2014, World Cup 2018), China (Beijing 2008, Beijing 2022), but even in more established democracies, Host City officials may have limited accountability.

Now is the time that commentators jump up-and-down to shout that hosting the Olympic Games in a single site would fix all of the problems. By placing the Games in Athens (no permanent Winter Games host is ever suggested), there wouldn’t be a need to host the Games in countries with questionable human rights records, or to watch as every single Olympic Games goes over-budget. However, rarely are suggestions made as to who will pay for the infrastructure, which will likely need to be periodically updated (it might be a bit hard for the Greek government to afford it at this point), cope with the criticism that the Games would be cemented as a Euro-centric enterprise, or the other problems that would arise with a permanent host. The Olympic Games are going to continue to be held in countries with imperfect human rights records (which would be pretty much all of them), and in countries with poor human rights records.

All of this is to say that the IOC needs to begin to actually enforce its ideals, and its own mandate of ensuring an Olympic Games that is socially sustainable. The IOC and the Olympic Games should not be the solution to human rights problems in a host country, for they cannot be. However, the IOC does have a minimum moral responsibility to ensure that the Olympic Games themselves are prepared for with the utmost consideration for human rights. And the IOC already has the powers to enforce this mandate through the Host City Contract, whether by withholding money from the Host City, or at the most extreme end, by removing the Games altogether. The IOC has also arguably set a precedent of withholding its support for a country to host future sporting events as a result of the Russian doping scandal, and it could do the same for Olympic host cities that engage in practices that violate human rights in the name of the Games. Of course, this is ultimately up to the IOC itself, barring pressure from states or sponsors.

The Olympic Games were never going to fix Brazil’s or Rio’s problems. Many of Rio’s problems, including Zika, ongoing sanitation issues, corruption, and political and economic instability, have little to no connection to the Games, and were certainly not caused by the Games. In that vein, it is naïve to believe that the Games could be anything more than a temporary papering-over of the deep divisions in Brazilian society (for more on this point, I suggest reading Dave Zirin’s book, Brazil’s Dance with the Devil). What the Olympic Games can do is serve as an example of how to carry out a socially-sustainable project in an emerging market economy. This applies not only to the displacement of persons, but also to the treatment of those who work on construction projects related to the Games (as opposed to the forced labour used in Beijing and Sochi), the environmental sustainability of the Games, and governmental policies and procedures that enhance accountability. While the IOC has made tentative steps to address these issues, as I have addressed before in this space, it is insufficient. The IOC cannot solve all the world’s ills, but it can at least ensure that the Games, carried out under its name, live up to its own standards.  The Rio Olympic Games could have served as an example of how to carry out a socially-sustainable project in an emerging market economy.

 



[1] Although the Paralympics will arrive on 7 September, and while London 2012 did an excellent job of promoting those Games it remains to be seen if Rio will follow suit.


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