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IOC sets out human rights framework to decide future Olympic Games hosts

Organisation plans to put people’s rights ‘at the core’ of its operations.

13 September 2022 Ed Dixon

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  • Framework looking to reshape working practices of IOC, Olympic Games and Olympic Movement
  • IOC has faced backlash over awarding 2022 Winter Games to China

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has approved a strategic framework on human rights, a move which will inform selecting future hosts of the Olympic Games.

In line with Olympic Agenda 2020+5, the IOC Strategic Framework on Human Rights will also guide processes and decisions related to the IOC administration and supply chain, the delivery of the Games, athletes’ representation, as well as safe and inclusive sport.

With the IOC executive board having given the all clear, the framework will look to ensure that people’s rights are ‘put at the core’ of the IOC’s operations and are ‘respected in line with international agreements and standards – within its remit’.

To achieve this, the IOC has laid out three strategic intents for 2030.

The first covering the IOC as an organisation will see it attempt to advance respect for human rights through enhanced policies and practices.

The second focuses on the IOC as owner of the Games and involves driving human rights best practices in the selection of future hosts, as well as in the organisation and delivery of the event. This will see the IOC work with organising committees, giving them ‘clear requirements’ and ‘supporting tools’.

The IOC says the final pillar will look to reinforce it as ‘leader of the Olympic Movement’. The organisation stated it is accelerating the adoption by National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and International Federations (IFs) of proactive measures on human rights related challenges.

As a first step towards meeting these intents, the IOC has identified 16 objectives to be implemented by 2024. This includes the amendment of the Olympic Charter and the ‘Basic Universal Principles of Good Governance’ of the Olympic and sports movement in order to better articulate human rights responsibilities.

Additionally, a newly established IOC human rights advisory committee will provide strategic advice to the IOC and on human rights risk management. The composition of the committee is set to be announced in the coming weeks.

According to the IOC, the framework builds on the work it has undertaken over the last few years to address human rights questions within the scope of its responsibility, and recent recommendations.

“The overarching mission of the Olympic Movement is to contribute through sport to a better world,” said IOC president Thomas Bach.

“Human rights are in fact firmly anchored in the Olympic Charter. We will be strengthening this even further in the future.

“Our mission, to put sport at the service of humankind, therefore goes hand-in-hand with human rights.”

SportsPro says…

The IOC believes the framework shows ‘a long-term commitment to lead by example’. Recently, that has been sorely lacking.

This year’s Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, laden with accusations of sportswashing and outrage over the persecution of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, had prompted calls for the organisation to rethink how it awards Games.

The IOC has been frustratingly placid on such controversies, using political neutrality as reason for its position. While this new framework appears a step in the right direction, expectations may need to be lowered – the IOC has frequently referred to the measures only applying within its remit and scope of responsibility.

Legally and politically, the organisation may have to say that. But considering it is responsible for arguably sport’s ultimate event, it is not unreasonable to expect the IOC to go the extra mile on matters of basic human decency.

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