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:


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


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

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 | The Olympic Agenda 2020: The devil is in the implementation!

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

The Olympic Agenda 2020: The devil is in the implementation!

The 40 recommendations of the Olympic Agenda 2020 are out! First thought: one should not underplay the 40 recommendations, they constitute (on paper at least) a potential leap forward for the IOC. The media will focus on the hot stuff: the Olympic channel, the pluri-localisation of the Games, or their dynamic format. More importantly, and to some extent surprisingly to us, however, the IOC has also fully embraced sustainability and good governance. Nonetheless, the long-term legacy of the Olympic Agenda 2020 will hinge on the IOC’s determination to be true to these fundamental commitments. Indeed, the devil is always in the implementation, and the laudable intents of some recommendations will depend on future political choices by Olympic bureaucrats. 

For those interested in human rights and democracy at (and around) the Olympics, two aspects are crucial: the IOC’s confession that the autonomy of sport is intimately linked to the quality of its governance standards and the central role the concept of sustainability is to play in the bidding process and the host city contract.  

Good Governance = Autonomy

“Good governance and autonomy are strongly linked; they are two sides of the same coin”

This statement is to be found in the only document that really matters to understand the depth of the reforms envisaged: The context and background report. It is a confession; there is no autonomy of sport, unless this autonomy is in the hands of irreproachable institutions. The IOC is prone to consider itself as abiding to such standard, but it is not for itself to judge. The global public will be the sole arbiter of this pledge to good governance, as the IOC recognises: “Autonomy has to be earned”. 

In this regard, the IOC’s Agenda 2020 proposes a certain number of institutional and “good governance” reforms:

Recommendation 27 Comply with basic principles of good governance

The Agenda 2020 foresees that “all organisations belonging to the Olympic Movement [are] to accept and comply with the Basic universal Principles of Good Governance of the Olympic and Sports movements”. To this end, the organisations will be monitored and mentored and self-evaluation tests (probably similar to WADA’s compliance test) will be introduced. Furthermore, the IOC will update the principles of good governance with the help of a working group composed of “experts”. Obviously, the impact of this recommendation depends very much on the stringency of the monitoring and of the nature of the good governance requirements imposed. 

Recommendation 29: Increase Transparency

The IOC vows to publish financial statements according to the International Financial Reporting Standards and to produce an annual activity and financial report, including the allowance policy for IOC members. This is an important step, since it enables external observers to better scrutinise the financial flows in the Olympic movement and to have a full picture of the allowances received by each individual member of the IOC. It will be easier to follow where the IOC’s money is going and it will make money laundering harder. However, external revenues received by IOC members will stay undeclared, leaving the door open for suspicions.  

Recommendation 30: Strengthen the IOC Ethics Commission independence

This recommendation aims at securing the IOC’s ethics commission independence by proposing to elect its chair and its members via a secret ballot of the Session (the IOC’s parliament, assembling all IOC members). This seems quite an obvious thing in a democratic society, but for an institution versed in nepotism, it is a big step. Once implemented, the nomination process of the members of the Commission will be more difficult to control, and, thus, reinforce the independence of the sole potential counter-power (to the executive board) inside the IOC’s institutional structure. Again, this is no cure-all, and the Ethics Commission has yet to prove itself as an effective control mechanism, but it is a first step towards a more balanced institutional game.

Recommendation 32: Strengthen ethics

Here it is suggested to revise the Code of ethics, so that it “be fully aligned with the Olympic Agenda 2020’s drive for more transparency, good governance and accountability”. This is a vague, but potentially important, commitment to rethink the IOC’s Code of Ethics. Only time will tell if this revision will lead to better and accountable governance. In any event, only heightened public scrutiny can force the IOC to adopt governance standard ensuring full transparency and accountability. 

Recommendation 37: Address IOC membership age limit

The IOC is recommending a complex system to allow members over 70 to go beyond the official age limit entrenched in Article 16 of the Olympic Charter. In practice, the Session will be able to vote on allowing each member the right to stay on for maximum four years more than the age limit. This is a (minimal) concession to the IOC members strongly opposed to the age limit.  

Recommendation 38: Implement a targeted recruitment process

Recommendation 38 concerns the selection process of new IOC members. The IOC is no democratic institution. The “citizens” of the Olympic family do not elect their representatives. In fact, the IOC members are not necessarily part of the “Olympic family”. Historically, its selection process has been marred by nepotism (e.g. the Samaranch dynasty) as it is based on co-optation. The Agenda 2020 does not do away with this fundamentally oligarchic procedure, but it is slightly correcting it by empowering (and constraining) the nominations Commission, which is in charge of proposing candidates. The choice of the Commission is to be constrained by specific selection criteria, the most prominent being: gender balance; geographical balance; and the existence of an athletes’ commission within the organisation for representatives of Ifs/NOCs. As from now on, the press and the public will be able to blame the IOC if it does not follow its self-imposed requirements (gender balance being the one to watch closely) in the future. 

Some changes are also on the books concerning the Scope and Composition of IOC Commissions (Recommendation 40). Unfortunately, they are of unclear nature and magnitude.

These institutional innovations, if implemented, are positive steps forward to constrain power inside the IOC and to open it to outside scrutiny. The most remarkable outcome of the Olympic Agenda 2020 remains the crystal clear acknowledgment by IOC that the autonomy of sport is necessarily tied to the quality of the governing processes in place. This essentially means that the Agenda 2020 can only be the beginning of a dynamic institutional reform process that must lead the IOC to be more inclusive of the many constituencies of the sporting world. This is not enough, however; the IOC must also be receptive to the needs of society as a whole.  

Sustainability and Human rights in the bidding process

The bidding process should be at the centre of all critical attention. It is clear that it is the bidding process that entrusts the IOC with real political leverage. At this point, it takes fundamental decisions that will impact the life of millions (if not billions) of citizens Therefore, the brunt of the substantial (in contrast with the institutional measures discussed above) reforms was expected to impact on the bidding procedure (see the joint paper by the Swiss, German, Austrian and Swedish NOCs). It is also on the bidding process that the IOC received the most contributions in the framework of the Agenda 2020 (more than 90). In this regard, Sochi was a wake-up call, due to the abuses recorded on the human rights and anti-discrimination front, and the environmental sustainability side. The IOC Agenda 2020 is not shy of tackling these issues and, with caveats discussed below, should be praised for doing so. First, and this is a fundamental point, the Host City Contract will from now on be made publicly available (for now we only have leaked draft documents as for the 2022 contract). This is a necessary move for an institution claiming to follow good governance principles. Indeed, it will ease the work of critics and commentators scrutinising the contract and the public as a whole will have access to the official document itself.  

Recommendation 1: Shape the bidding process as an invitation

This first recommendation contains a variety of proposals. The spirit of which is “to invite potential candidate cities to present an Olympic project that best matches their sports, economic, social and environmental long-term planning needs”. Thus, for “reasons of sustainability”, the IOC will tolerate that events do not take place in the Host-city but in another nearby city or country (modification of article 34 of the Olympic Charter). The Host City Contract will include a provision banning discriminations, as was previously announced and celebrated by Human Rights Watch. In addition to this, article 21 of the 2022 Host City Contract will impose sustainability requirements on the Host city. Yet, the transformative quality of these provisions is still to be demonstrated. The main point remains that new regulations for the bidding procedure will be drafted. These will be key to set in stone the sustainability and Human rights turn of the Olympic family and will be the place to look at in order to assess whether the IOC is really serious about the changes put forward in the Olympic Agenda 2020.

Recommendation 2: Evaluate bid cities by assessing key opportunities and risks

The evaluation of the bids is key to the IOC’s impact on sustainability or human rights aspects (and not only to ensure that its commercial interests are safeguarded). Hence, it is good news that the IOC is to consider as positive aspects of a bid: “the maximum use of existing facilities and the use of temporary and demountable venues where no long-term venue legacy need exists or can be justified”. Furthermore, the Evaluation Commission is “to benefit from third-party, independent advice in such areas as social, economic and political conditions, with a special focus on sustainability and legacy”. In fact, the final reports by the Evaluation Commission are to include “an assessment of the opportunities and risks of each candidature, as well as of sustainability and legacy” (modification of bye-law to rule 33) and third-party independent risk-assessments are to be conducted. This will be a powerful tool in the hands of NGOs to decisively influence the selection process by providing in depth (and public) assessments of the sustainability of the different bids. It will also, and perhaps mainly, offer critical ammunitions in case the IOC is inclined to disregard the sustainability assessment provided by the Evaluation Commission. There is no rock solid guarantee that the IOC will in the end take into account the sustainability of a bid to allocate the Games. Yet, a full-blown neglect of this assessment would give way to damaging public criticism.  

Recommendation 4: Include sustainability in all aspects of the Olympic Games

This recommendation is aimed at ensuring that sustainability “is included in all aspects of the planning and staging of the Olympic Games”. Sustainability is to be achieved via “a sustainability strategy to enable potential and actual Olympic Games organisers to integrate and implement sustainability measures”. The IOC wants to assist the Organising Committees “to establish the best possible governance for the integration of sustainability throughout the organisation”. To this end, the “[n]ext Host City Contract [is] to reflect, through a number of additional obligations” these policy goals. Moreover, the IOC considers signing a “MoU with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for possible independent assessment of OCOG sustainability performances”. Again, depending on the extent to which the Host City Contract will be modified, these changes are substantial. However, the UNEP might need concrete commitments to be convinced to deepen its existing collaboration with the IOC, especially after the disaster of the Sochi Games. The Host City Contract is certainly an important lever to impose obligations on the Host City, but to effectively do so it needs to be accompanied by clear and potent procedures ensuring its enforcement.  

Recommendation 5: Include sustainability within the Olympic Movement’s daily operations

The IOC’s administration in its day-to-day operations is to follow sustainability standards. Most notably, it aims to “introduce sustainable sourcing policies in tendering processes, sponsorship, licensing and supplier agreements for renewals or new contracts”. This is an instance of IOC greening its own administrative operations to improve its image. 

Recommendation 14: Strengthen the 6th Fundamental Principle of Olympism

In a symbolic gesture, the 6th fundamental principle of Olympism, which forbids all types of discrimination, is to be re-written into a hybrid text of Article 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights and Article 2 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  This is a tricky move and guessing the way the new principle will be interpreted in the future is an impossible deed. On one side, it seems that the principle is now completely in line with anti-discrimination standards widely recognised under international law. On the other, one has the impression that the new wording narrows its scope of application. Indeed, discrimination is not “incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement” anymore, it is merely inadmissible when exercising the rights and freedom granted by the Olympic charter. In general, this is a symbolic provision, the wording of the Host City Contract or the bidding requirements have way more practical relevance, but this development is not necessarily a sign of a more stringent action from the part of the IOC against discriminations. 

Conclusion: The Devil is in the implementation/interpretation

This leads us to a final, and crucial, caveat. Law is very much about the interpretation of the meaning of words. In our case, the IOC will be the main responsible to give a practical meaning to the sweet words enshrined in the Agenda 2020’s recommendations. Starting with the IOC Session on the 8 and 9 December in Monaco, which will decide on the modifications to the Olympic Charter or its byelaws. The legal meaning of transnational concepts such as sustainability, good governance and discrimination is more or less shared around the globe. The IOC cannot afford to betray it; there is no space for the use of newspeak, or for any other word games leading to a practical disregard of the essential gist of those concepts. The IOC and its president have raised high expectations with this set of recommendations indicating a willingness to change from the side of the Olympic movement. Such expectations cannot be disappointed over and over again; it would certainly be suicidal for the Olympic movement to betray its grand promises. Now comes the time to deliver!

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