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Public Contract Law Journal

Public Contract Law Journal Vol. 49, No. 1

Holding the Best Olympics Ever: The Need for a Permanent & Independent Human Rights Committee to Oversee Olympic Procurements

Ann Willett


  • Discusses how contracts for construction associated with Olympic Games have violated human rights norms.
  • Analyzes human rights norms in contracting.
  • Discusses amendment of the Olympic Charter to establish a permanent, independent human rights committee.
Holding the Best Olympics Ever: The Need for a Permanent & Independent Human Rights Committee to Oversee Olympic Procurements
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I. Introduction

The 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China, were supposed to be the best Olympics ever. Yet for most residents of a northeastern Beijing neighborhood called Hujialou, the Games proved to be anything but. In the years leading up to the Games, the city of Beijing hired a “demolition-relocation company” to clear the way for construction of over sixty-two new roads, four bridges, dozens of new residential buildings, and the massive competition and training venues that an Olympiad requires. At the city’s direction, this company “removed the windows and steel safety doors from all of the buildings and apartments” inconveniently located in the path of the planned construction, “dug trenches in the [neighborhood] green spaces and walkways,” and “[scattered] debris in the stairways and entrances to the buildings where [people] continued to live” in order to drive out residents.

An estimated two thirds of Hujialou residents were forced to abandon their homes, leaving the remaining residents to brave the brutal winter temperatures without any heat or electricity in their partially demolished buildings.These residents reported the demolition-relocation company had even “hired ‘thugs’ to harass [them] at night, physically attacking some of the most outspoken critics of the demolitions, and dumping garbage and defecating in entryways at night.” In addition to these horrific and demeaning responses to public criticism of the forced evictions, people who spoke out about the situation were put in prison indefinitely.

Beijing is far from the only host city in the Olympics’ long history to neglect human rights principles when carrying out its contracts to prepare for the Games.Low-income residents, the most vulnerable being youth and the elderly, also faced forced evictions leading up to the Vancouver 2010, Sochi 2014, and Rio 2016 Games.Furthermore, forced evictions are only one example of human rights violations that have arisen during preparations for the Olympics. The 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, also saw abuse of migrant workers and violent censorship of media that attempted to expose these transgressions. More recently, preparations for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, led to removal of street children, forced labor, poor working conditions, and police brutality, particularly to suppress demonstrations against these human rights violations.

Global supply chain concerns pose additional procurement-related human rights risks. These risks arise in the construction context as well as with “sponsors, licensees, and suppliers” providing goods such as spectator merchandise and athletic equipment.Looking to the Tokyo 2020 Games, there are concerns that procurement for the event may involve forced evictions as well as “materials and goods . . . connected to human rights violations, including illegal logging, land grabbing, child labor, and unsafe working conditions.”

The relevant sports governing body with which cities contract to host the Olympics is the International Olympic Committee (IOC), a non-profit, non- governmental organization (NGO) and the “supreme authority” of the Olympics. When putting on an Olympiad, host cities — and the states to which they belong — are generally expected to observe various domestic and international human rights standards.The core labor standards set forth by the International Labour Organization, the International Bill of Human Rights, and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) compose the main human rights legal framework that governs the process of organizing an Olympiad. However, host cities and states have historically failed to respect these norms during construction and when procuring the goods and services necessary for hosting an Olympiad.

For the past decade, the IOC has faced public outcry for its failures to pre- vent and address human rights violations at the hands of host cities and states, and their private contractors. In response, the IOC has taken several steps to attempt to save face and demonstrate that it shares these concerns. These steps include making public statements about strengthening its commitment to human rights, adding human rights and anti-corruption provisions to host city contracts beginning in 2024, joining other sports governing bodies in creating a centralized human rights advisory body, and even creating its own Advisory Committee on Human Rights.

The new host city contract provisions and, particularly, the Advisory Committee on Human Rights certainly constitute massive steps in the right direction. However, the IOC has not properly structured the Advisory Committee on Human Rights to be permanent and independent, and its mandate is not specific enough to ensure the new host city contract provisions are effective. At bottom, the IOC lacks true enforcement authority.

Therefore, this Note argues that the IOC should establish a permanent and independent Human Rights Committee that has the authority to oversee human rights due diligence in all aspects of the Olympics and to enforce relevant human rights obligations through a grievance process. The IOC’s statements committing to safeguarding human rights, its decision to add human rights provisions to host city contracts, and its involvement in creating human rights oversight bodies that do not have proper due diligence or remedy functions are merely gestures that do not provide sufficiently tangible human rights protection. The “best Olympics ever” cannot occur until a baseline is established that each Games — from its inception and throughout its legacy — promotes the enjoyment of human rights for all involved.

Part II of this Note provides a brief overview of the Olympics hosting process and its history of human rights abuses, the relevant international standards for safeguarding human rights that apply to the Olympic procurement process, and the IOC’s current attempts to publicly commit to safeguarding human rights. Parts III and IV then explain that to truly respect human rights and follow principles of international human rights law and best practices for human rights due diligence and remedy, the IOC should establish a permanent and independent Human Rights Committee with the authority to directly oversee due diligence and address grievances.

The Olympics is quite possibly the single most global event in world history. Viewership has been in the billions for almost the past two decades, with more than four billion people — over half the world’s population — tuning in to the 2008 Beijing Games. The Olympics is the ultimate culmination of international unification; respect and admiration for humanity and our abilities, cultures, and traditions; and good, clean, friendly competition. Considering these ideals and that half the world may be watching, absolute transparency is essential. If there is ever a time to take every step possible to ensure that human rights are not endangered, it is in preparing for and hosting this event, the core purpose of which is to celebrate our very humanity.

II. Background: Human Rights Violations Pervading the Olympic Procurement Process, the International Norms Violated, and the International Olympics Committee’s Ineffective Response to the Crisis

Before analyzing how the IOC should ameliorate its failures to provide tangible and effective human rights protections, it is important to understand the scope of the crisis, the international norms at play, and the steps that the IOC has taken thus far to respond to public demands for better prevention, oversight, and accountability. Therefore, this Part first briefly describes how a city and state contract with the IOC and private parties to host an Olympiad, while detailing which human rights abuses have permeated that process and continue to threaten future Games. This Part then examines international treaties and soft law to identify the relevant human rights norms that states disregard during the Olympic procurement process. Finally, this Part explores the IOC’s insufficient public gestures to demonstrate its commitment to safeguarding human rights, particularly its defective establishment of a Human Rights Advisory Committee.

A. Unfair Play: The IOC, Host City Contracts, and Past Human Rights Violations

The IOC is the “supreme authority” of the Olympic Movement, which “encompasses [organizations], athletes and other persons who agree to be guided by the Olympic Charter.” It is a not-for-profit NGO, which is “an organization concerned with ‘international matters and, usually multi-national membership and activities.’”The IOC is classified as a legal person seated in Lausanne, Switzerland, and is comprised of a “supreme organ” called the Session, an Executive Board, and a President.Part of the IOC’s mission under the Olympic Charter is “to cooperate with the competent public or private [organizations] and authorities in the [endeavor] to place sport at the service of humanity and thereby to promote peace.”Any authority in a person, business, or organization acting on behalf of the Olympics is vested by the IOC.

As an NGO, the IOC “engage[s] in the review and promotion of state compliance with international obligations.”This status affords the IOC the power to strongly influence how host cities and states domestically carry out their obligations under international conventions and customs. The IOC is influential in this way because these obligations are incorporated into host city contracts. When a city, state, or individual voluntarily commits to the Olympic Games, it accepts a duty to respect any and all IOC rules and regulations and to submit to any related enforcement actions. Those obligations flow from host cities and states to their private contracting partners by way of their Olympic Organizing Committees, and those contractors require the same of their subcontractors, and so on.

Behind each Olympic Games is a near decade-long process that begins with interested cities around the globe placing their bids to the IOC to host the Games. The IOC kicks off the bidding process by publishing its Candidature Questionnaire,which prompts the competing cities to prepare a candidature file that is essentially a “blueprint for the event.” The Candidature Questionnaire, particularly the most recent Questionnaire for the Winter 2026 Games, allows cities to tailor their bids to best suit their communities and capacities.Each applicant city must also make certain binding guarantees on behalf of “the host city or other relevant local or national government body.”The guarantees include making commitments to “details about the facilities . . . security and accommodation, . . . sports and venues, . . . and . . . sustainability.”Beginning in 2024, host city contracts will also include commitments to protecting human rights in all “activities related to the [organization]” of the Games.

While putting together a bid to host the Games, the host city and/ or national government “will often start informal conversations with potential national sponsors and licensees, and spell out the kinds of environmental, social or human rights criteria it is likely to put in place” in its contracts with private businesses if it is selected to host the Games. After the IOC receives the candidature files and completes further steps, such as asking for additional information, hosting a Q&A with the Evaluation Commission, publishing and receiving candidate city responses to the Evaluation Commission Report, and conducting candidate city briefings and presentations, the IOC holds an election to select the host city.The lucky city chosen to host the Games is then awarded a Host City Contract.The host then becomes “responsible for the establishment of an [Organizing] Committee” that has limited tenure and has “the status of a legal person in its country.”

Backed by the power of the host state’s government, the Organizing Committee “locally awards” supply, service, and construction procurement con-racts ranging from building the sporting venues and the Olympic Village to house the athletes, to providing the merchandise and concessions to be sold to spectators. As this process plays out, the IOC, as an NGO and a sports governing body, is “best placed to act as [an] enabler[], encouraging the responsible [behavior] of host governments and embedding human rights due diligence requirements into the contract terms for each event, and thereafter providing high-level oversight to track their on-the-ground delivery.”

Despite existing international and domestic expectations and the IOC’s potential for oversight, human rights issues have often arisen in host city efforts to prepare for the Olympics.At the root of many human rights issues is corruption, both in the host cities’ and states’ governments generally as well as in the award and performance of contracts with the local Organizing Committees. For example, leading up to the 2008 Games, Beijing needed to rapidly accelerate ongoing urban upgrading projects to overhaul its infrastructure. As a solution, the city hired demolition-relocation companies and “thugs” to violently coerce lower-income residents and migrants from their homes and relocate them far from their livelihoods.Individuals who protested these evictions were imprisoned.

During preparations for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, migrant workers received inadequate meals and cramped, uninhabitable housing as part of their compensation.Moreover, these migrant workers often “never received their wages at all.”One individual “even sewed his mouth shut in an act of protest” after 108 construction workers lost their wages when their firm was “mysteriously liquidated.” Similar to the Chinese government’s practice, the Russian government declared any organization or person who attempted to speak out against or remedy the situation an “enem[y] of the state.”

Perhaps most famously, preparations for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Summer Games (which coincided with preparations for the 2014 FIFA World Cup) were fraught with thousands of forced evictions, removal of and violence against street children, police brutality, abuse of workers, and forced labor, along with a massive corruption scandal involving many of the biggest construction contractors for the Games. More than 4,000 families, many of whom lived in the city’s favelas, were forcibly evicted from their homes to clear construction sites. The most vulnerable of the people affected by harsh policies related to preparations for the Olympics were the youth and elderly of the favelas, many of whom were shot and killed, injured, or “psychologically scarred by gunfights and tension.”In April 2014, a worker protest at the Olympic Park and Olympic Village relating to a strike of 5,000 construction workers ended with military police shooting bullets into the crowd.

Human rights abuses and corruption during preparations for Olympic Games are alarmingly long-running and widespread. These issues are found not only in developing countries and those notorious for political corruption, but also in Western countries such as the United States and Canada.For example, hundreds of low-income Vancouver residents, many of whom were elderly individuals, were displaced from their downtown homes leading up to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games, echoing a similar practice that occurred during preparations for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada.Kim Kerr of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside Residents Association described the crisis: “Thousands of people have lost their homes since this city was awarded the Olympic Games. There’s simply no place for these people to go. People in the Downtown Eastside die on the street.”

Human rights issues related to the Olympic procurement process are unlikely to abate in the future. There are concerns that procurement for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games may involve forced evictions as well as “materials and goods . . . connected to human rights violations, including illegal logging, land grabbing, child labor, and unsafe working conditions.”Beijing is slated to host the Olympics again in 2022.However, prospects are slim that the city will rectify its past mistakes amid the Communist Party’s current practice of forcing “hundreds of thousands of Muslims in western China” into internment camps. Concerns about future human rights violations even extend beyond 2024, despite new human rights and anti-corruption provisions in host city contracts beginning with the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics.

B. The Rules of the Game: The International Human Rights Norms at Risk During the Olympic Procurement Process

As previously illustrated, the main human rights issues that arise in the Olympic procurement process include forced evictions, unsafe working conditions, forced labor at construction sites and in global supply chains, violence, and police brutality.In general, various international and domestic standards place obligations and expectations on states not to commit these atrocities themselves. States also have the duty to protect the rights of people within their borders from threats by third parties, including corporations.Recent years have seen a push to impose similar expectations and obligations directly on private actors.This shift in attitudes toward the private sector, combined with the exposure and criticism of global government procurement practices that implicate human rights abuses, has engendered an international initiative to make protection of human rights an inalienable aspect of public procurement policies and practices.

Beginning in 2026, host cities and states that contract with the IOC will be contractually bound to respect and protect human rights in all activities associated with hosting an Olympiad.The principal framework of states’ inter- national human rights obligations during the Olympic procurement process includes the International Bill of Human Rights and certain “Core [Labor] Standards” established in the International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Host cities and states will also be specifically bound to follow the UNGPs, perhaps the most influential development of soft law to come out of the movement to link states and their private contractors together in their responsibility to respect human rights.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) are collectively known as the International Bill of Human Rights.The ICCPR and ICE- SCR codify a number of UDHR provisions, and the IOC has recognized the UDHR’s importance by using it as the foundation of one of the Fundamental Principles of Olympism. UDHR Articles 12 and 25(1) respectively protect against “arbitrary interference” and “attacks” on one’s home and guarantee an adequate standard of living.Article 4 prohibits slavery and servitude.Articles 23 and 24 speak to working conditions and employment, protecting individuals’ rights to “free choice of employment . . . just and [favorable] conditions of work . . . protection against unemployment,” freedom from discrimination, just and equal pay, the right to unionize, and the right to “reasonable limitation of working hours” and paid holidays.

ICCPR Article 17 codifies the housing rights established in UDHR Article 12, and in Article 8, the ICCPR expands upon prohibitions against slavery by adding that people have the general right to be free from forced labor.The ICCPR places binding obligations on its signatories to protect people within their borders from deprivation of these rights, and even states not parties to the Convention generally have obligations to respect the international custom that the ICCPR codifies.

Like the ICCPR, the ICESCR is widely accepted by the international community as reflecting binding international custom. ICESCR Article 11(1) is considered “the most clear and authoritative expression of the right to housing in international law” with a “near-universal acceptance in the international community.” It provides that states should “take appropriate steps to ensure the realization” of the right of all people to “an adequate standard of living . . . including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions.”ICESCR Article 7 also codifies many of the rights set forth in the UDHR. Provisions (a)(i) and (b) are of particular importance in the context of the Olympic procurement process because they ensure fair and equal wages, that women are guaranteed “conditions of work not inferior to those enjoyed by men,” “equal pay for equal work,” and “[s]afe and healthy working conditions.”

Finally, the International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work sets forth four core labor rights that obligate each of the organization’s 187 member States to protect:

(a) freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;
(b) the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory [labor];
(c) the effective abolition of child [labor]; and
(d) the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

The Declaration also incorporates by reference the eight fundamental International Labour Organization Conventions that every member state, irrespective of whether they have ratified the Conventions, must “respect, . . . promote and . . . realize, in good faith.”

The UNGPs are the primary source of international soft law detailing the responsibilities of businesses in their general operations as well as their relationships with states.Host cities and states will agree in their contracts to follow these principles beginning with the 2024 Games. The UNGPs implement the UN’s “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework by informing businesses of best practices for safeguarding human rights in their operations, and guiding states in their oversight of businesses as well as procurement relationships. In detailing the foundational principles that govern corporations’ responsibilities, the UNGPs specify that the applicable responsibilities are those set forth in the International Bill of Human Rights and the ILO’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.The UNGPs’ foundational and operational principles for businesses provide that they should avoid directly causing human rights abuses, “[s]eek to prevent or mitigate” abuses in their supply chains, conduct due diligence, administer and act on “impact assessments,” “provide for or cooperate in [remediation of adverse impacts] through legitimate processes,” and set policies committing to each of these actions.

The most basic requirement that the UNGPs promote, in line with other international obligations, is that states must guard the human rights of people within their jurisdiction against abuse by third parties, including corporations. States must do so by “taking appropriate steps to prevent, investigate, punish and redress such abuse through effective policies, legislation, regulations and adjudication.”While states “are not per se responsible for human rights abuse by private actors,” failure to attempt to prevent, mitigate, and remedy abuses, especially where it is attributable to the state (such as through a business relationship), may constitute a breach of international human rights law. The UNGPs thus also urge states to take advantage of the “unique opportunities” that the procurement process provides for advancing the enjoyment of human rights within their territories by “[promoting] respect for human rights by business enterprises with which they conduct commercial transactions.”

In conjunction with the duty of private corporations to facilitate redress of human rights grievances, the UNGPs appeal to states to provide effective and impartial state-based judicial and non-judicial grievance processes.They also encourage states to “facilitate access to effective non-[s]tate-based grievance mechanisms dealing with business-related human rights harms.”UNGP Principle 31 establishes that an effective non-judicial grievance mechanism must be legitimate, accessible, predictable, equitable, transparent, and rights-compatible, while also being “[a] source of continuous learning” and “[b]ased on engagement and dialogue.”

C. A Swing and a Miss: The IOC’s Inadequate Gestures in Response to Global Outcry

The IOC has faced harsh criticism from the public and the international human rights community for years as a result of the atrocities that continually arise during the Olympics, particularly during the Beijing 2008, Sochi 2014, and Rio 2016 Games. The problem that continues to plague the Olympics is that states do not comply with international and domestic legal obligations and expectations. The IOC has also not done enough to ensure that host cities and states respect the norms that the IBHR and Core Labor Standards protect through due diligence and redress of grievances per the UNGPs.

The global initiatives director at Human Rights Watch, an NGO dedicated to investigating and reporting on human rights abuses across the world, has criticized the Olympics’ weak human rights protections: “Time after time, Olympic hosts have gotten away with abusing workers building stadiums, and with crushing critics and media who try to report about abuses.” The Sport and Rights Alliance (SRA), “a coalition of leading human rights organizations, sports groups, and trade unions” whose “mission is to ensure that sports bodies and mega-sporting events respect human rights . . . at all stages of the process” issued the IOC recommendations about how it can better respect human rights in its operations.In response to these recommendations and other pressures, the IOC has made public statements committing to safeguarding human rights,included human rights requirements in its host city contracts beginning with the 2024 Games,supported establishing a centralized “independent Centre for Sport & Human Rights,” and created its own Advisory Committee on Human Rights in December 2018.Each of these actions constitutes vital progress toward mitigating the Olympics’ human rights problem. However, even taken together, they do not lend themselves to providing the concrete oversight, due diligence, and grievance redress necessary for safeguarding human rights in any context.

After facing backlash for failing to combat anti-LGBTQ legislation leading up to the Sochi 2014 Games, the IOC’s president, Thomas Bach, publicly announced revisions to the 6th Fundamental Principle of Olympism, which addresses discrimination. The 6th Fundamental Principle of Olympism was thus extended to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and Bach made clear the UDHR’s importance to the Olympic Movement by explaining that this principle is derived from the UDHR. However, while it is important that the IOC recognized the authority of the UDHR and its applicability to the Olympics, it is not clear whether this principle applies only to athletes or also other individuals involved in the Olympic Movement — including those involved in the procurement process — and it does not sufficiently expand the IOC’s commitment to human rights to where it needs to be.

The IOC implemented the SRA’s recommendation to include human rights, anti-corruption, and sustainable development provisions in host city contracts beginning with the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. As part of their requirement to “[r]espect . . . the Olympic Charter and promot[e] . . . Olympism,” cities and states that host the Olympics from 2024–on agree to abide by the following language “in their activities related to the [organization] of the Games”:

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-[recognized] human rights standards and principles, including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, applicable in the Host Country.

This new human rights provision and those pertaining to anti-corruption and sustainable development are the necessary foundation for the comprehensive human rights policy the IOC needs, but contractual obligations alone are not enough. The SRA has warned that “words on paper [will] not change practice; . . . implementation and monitoring are essential.” Despite the steps the IOC has taken to create human rights advisory bodies for mega-sporting events, the IOC has not yet established an effective means of ensuring that host cities and states comply with their new contractual obligations to follow applicable international and domestic human rights laws and the UNGPs.

The IOC recently joined a steering committee of several other sports governing bodies, governments, human rights NGOs, intergovernmental organizations, trade unions, and sponsors to help create a Centre for Sport and Human Rights,which was officially established in June 2018.While the IOC is not a member of the Centre’s advisory council, FIFA and the Organizing Committee of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games are.The Centre’s mission is to “[s]upport the prevention of human rights harms from occurring through sport,” “[s]upport access to effective remedy where harms have occurred,” and “[p]romote a positive human rights legacy from sport and sporting events” through “a framework of sharing knowledge, building capacity, and increasing accountability.” The Centre “focus[es] on supporting governments, host actors, sports governing bodies, international federations, and companies” in the implementation of “their duties and responsibilities to: prevent harms . . ., strengthen[] access to effective remedies . . ., and commucicate transparently on progress toward full implementation.”

FIFA established its own Human Rights Advisory Board in 2017 in response to global outrage at the corruption and human rights violations that marred the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Appearing to follow in FIFA’s footsteps, the IOC announced in December 2018 that it had established an Advisory Committee on Human Rights (Advisory Committee) and named the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, HRH Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, as the chair.The Advisory Committee “will report to the IOC Executive Board and the IOC President,” and “public reporting is not expected.”When asked if the Advisory Committee “would look at human rights in China, where the ruling Communist Party has been criticized for the internment of hundreds of thousands of Muslims in western China,” IOC President Bach said that “the IOC would not question China because it ‘has not the mandate nor the authority to solve the human rights problems’ that are clearly ‘political issues.’”Bach indicated that the Advisory Committee’s scope is instead intended to “focus on issues like the rights of transgender athletes.”

Joining other sports bodies to create the Centre and establishing the Advisory Committee are important steps and indicate that the IOC is truly open to holding itself and the host cities and states responsible. However, both human rights bodies have vague mandates, do not appear to be permanent or independent, and do not appear to provide the hands-on due diligence and remedy mechanisms relevant to procurement-related human rights issues — which are necessary if the IOC truly hopes to “put sport at the service of humanity.”This lack of enforcement authority renders the IOC’s other novel development, the new human rights and anti-corruption provisions in host city contracts, largely ineffective.

III. The Ultimate Referee: The IOC Should Amend the Olympic Charter to Establish a Permanet & Independen Human Rights Committee

Despite the IOC’s many public reiterations that it is committed to safeguarding human rights in all aspects of the Olympics,the only mention of human rights in the Olympic Charter is the statement that “[t]he practice of sport is a human right.”While this is undoubtedly true, it fails to recognize the rights of the people who make it possible for these athletes to exercise their rights at the Olympics. The Olympic Charter nevertheless has the potential to be a powerful document with respect to human rights issues arising in all aspects of the Olympics because “[a]ny person or [organization] belonging in any capacity whatsoever to the Olympic Movement is bound by the provisions of the Olympic Charter and shall abide by the decisions of the IOC.” This means that the Olympic Charter underpins all actions that host actors and their contractors take while performing their contracts with the IOC. These actors now also have obligations to respect relevant human rights norms under these contracts, such as those enshrined in the International Bill of Human Rights, Core Labor Standards, and the UNGPs.

To enforce host actors’ obligations, the IOC needs a permanent and independent Human Rights Committee established through the Olympic Charter that does not report to the IOC President and Executive Board, requires public reporting, and focuses on issues beyond athlete rights. The Advisory Committee on Human Rights currently fails on each of these points and does not either account for the majority of the relevant human rights concerns facing the Olympics or provide for necessary accountability. Therefore, the IOC’s legislative body, the Session, should amend the relevant parts of the Olympic Charter to create and prescribe dispute resolution authority to a Human Rights Committee that does not suffer from these inadequacies.

Chapter 21 of the Olympic Charter sets out the authority of each of the IOC’s components.Under the Charter, the IOC President has the authority to establish “permanent or other standing or ad hoc commissions and working groups whenever it appears necessary.”The President “establishes their terms of reference, designates all their members and decides their dissolution once he considers that they have fulfilled their mandates.” And commissions cannot meet “without the prior agreement of the President except where expressly provided otherwise in the Olympic Charter or in specific regulations established by the IOC Executive Board.”Furthermore, “[t]he President is a member ex officio of all commissions and working groups and shall have precedence whenever he attends one of their meetings.” The Session has the power to “amend the Olympic Charter” and “to appoint the independent auditor of the IOC.”

The Centre for Sport and Human Rights, FIFA’s independent Human Rights Advisory Board,the Mega-Sporting Events Platform for Human Rights (MSE Platform),and World Bank guidance support the importance of independence in a human rights advisory and adjudicatory body. Because the Olympic Charter vests in the President the sole power to create and dissolve IOC commissions, any Human Rights Committee created pursuant to the President’s power would not be in line with best practices and would expose the Committee to potential corruption.This is because anyone who acts as a part of the Olympic Movement does so only with the power vested in them by the IOC;therefore, the responsibility for any human rights abuses committed in the process of exercising this power falls to the IOC. These abuses committed in the IOC’s name can become an international embarrassment, which creates an incentive for the IOC to attempt to sweep such things under the rug, rather than deal with them publicly.

The IOC failed to establish its Advisory Committee on Human Rights in accordance with guidance and best practices. The Advisory Committee must “report to the IOC Executive Board and the IOC President,”meaning its establishment is improper because it is not independent and was likely set up pursuant to the President’s power. Any issues concerning transparency that come along with the Advisory Committee’s lack of independence are exacerbated by the fact that it is not expected to report publicly. Until the IOC remedies these defects with the Advisory Committee — either by going back and setting it up through proper means or by allowing the Advisory Committee to stand as it is and creating an additional Human Rights Committee — the IOC does not have an acceptable means of ensuring host actors’ compliance with the International Bill of Human Rights, Core Labor Standards, or the UNGPs.

The IOC Session should therefore use its power to amend the Olympic Charter to form an effective Human Rights Committee. Drawing inspiration from its power to appoint an independent auditor, the Session should amend Chapter 21 of the Charter to write in an indissoluble and independent Human Rights Committee that answers to no higher authority, can convene at its discretion, and provides for public reporting. It should also amend Chapter 6 of the Charter, which speaks to “[m]easures and [s]anctions, [d]isci- plinary [p]rocedures and [d]ispute [r]esolution,” to add that human rights disputes should be submitted to the independent Human Rights Committee for resolution. Because all actors in the Olympic Movement agree to abide by the Olympic Charter, particularly the host actors who have distinct contractual obligations to do so, they will have bound themselves to submit to the authority of this independent Human Rights Committee.

IV. Going for the Gold: Implementing the UNGP's "Protect, Respect, and Remedy" Framework to Ensure Compliance with Applicable Human Rights Requirements

The International Bill of Human Rights and Core Labor Standards are the most fundamental international human rights standards that protect the very norms that the Olympic procurement process jeopardizes year after year.The UNGPs, secured as required guidance for Olympics host actors through their contracts with the IOC, detail how atrocities such as forced evictions and abusive labor practices can be avoided and mitigated when states work with the private sector to put on an Olympiad.The only missing pieces are direct, independent oversight to prevent abuses and effective procedures for fielding grievances and ensuring victims have access to monetary and injunctive relief for their suffering.

The Centre for Sport and Human Rights, FIFA’s Human Rights Advisory Board, the Mega-Sporting Events Platform for Human Rights’ white papers, and even the IOC’s own attempt at creating an Advisory Committee demonstrate overwhelming support for the need for specialized human rights bodies in the mega-sporting event context. The IOC’s Advisory Committee is deficient per the standards established through these other sources because it does not contemplate due diligence or remedy responsibilities. Moreover, if it intends to “focus on issues like the rights of transgender athletes,”its scope is not sufficiently broad to encompass the myriad human rights violations arising under the procurement process. The IOC’s Human Rights Committee should follow the MSE Platform’s and the World Bank’s guidance to provide hands-on due diligence and effective grievance and redress processes in order to ensure compliance with the International Bill of Human Rights, Core Labor Standards, and the UNGPs.

A. Preparation Is Key: How the IOC Can Follow Guidance for Human Rights Due Diligence in the Mega-Sporting Event Context to Effectuate the UNGPs

The MSE Platform provides guidance about implementing the UNGPs’ framework and conducting due diligence in the mega-sporting events context from the perspective of host actors as well as sports governing bodies.Cities and states with contracts to host the Olympics are expected to rely on the UNGPs, focusing their due diligence efforts on “taking appropriate steps to prevent, investigate, punish and redress such abuse through effective policies, legislation, regulations and adjudication.”Olympic host actors should commit to human rights protections, rely on “support from expert stakeholders in the field of human and child rights,” and share their knowledge with future Games hosts.

Sports governing bodies like the IOC should be responsible for overseeing the host actors’ efforts by conducting their own due diligence, which includes taking steps to refrain from inflicting human rights abuses in situations “[w]here they may cause harm,”such as, during any and all Olympics. The IOC must also avoid contributing to harm where it is likely to occur and “use [its] influence to reduce the risk of other parties contributing to the harm.”The IOC should also rely on its influence, like its contractual audit authority, to mitigate the risks of that harm occurring in instances where the IOC would not be directly causing harm but where it could “be linked to [its] operations, products or services through business relationships.”The MSE Platform stresses that governing bodies like the IOC can accomplish these due diligence goals by embedding human rights into their “[i]nternal systems and governance,” bidding requirements (which the IOC has already done),and their relationships with “national and regional members,” “suppliers, sponsors and broadcasters,” and “host governments, [organizing] committees and other local businesses.”

As an NGO and the “supreme authority” of the Olympics, the IOC is “best placed to act as [an] enabler[], encouraging the responsible [behavior] of host governments and embedding human rights due diligence requirements into the contract terms for each event, and thereafter providing high-level oversight to track their on-the-ground delivery.” Having a permanent and independent Human Rights Committee would ensure that respect for human rights is “reflected within the governance and management structure[]” of the IOC. Thus, the IOC’s Human Rights Committee, ideally composed of other human rights professionals like HRH Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, would use its expertise to carry out the IOC’s enabling, encouraging, and oversight duties within its relationships with suppliers, sponsors, broadcasters, host governments, organizing committees, and local private contractors.

B. A Victory for the Victims: How the IOC Can Follow Guidance for Providing a Remedial Process to Effectuate the UNGPs

As part of the IOC’s and its host actors’ commitments to human rights and the UNGPs, individuals whose rights are negatively impacted by the Olympics process should be provided a forum to complain of violations and request monetary, injunctive, or other appropriate relief. Per the UNGPs and MSE Platform Guidance, the IOC should ensure that it makes available impartial state-based judicial and non-judicial grievance processes, as well as “effective non-[s]tate-based grievance mechanisms dealing with business-related human rights harms.” If the IOC Human Rights Committee does not provide such a forum itself, it should at least have the authority to field and refer grievances to other competent human rights adjudicatory bodies.

If the Human Rights Committee does not itself function as an adjudicatory body, it could receive and process complaints, then submit their remediation to bodies such as the independent Centre for Sport and Human Rights or the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The Centre for Sport and Human Rights could be helpful at the remedy stage, but it should not be solely responsible for receiving complaints and conducting investigations because the fact that it is centralized to all mega-sporting eventsmeans that it may not have the necessary time or resources to give the Olympics process the specific, hands-on attention that it needs.

The Olympic Charter currently states that “[a]ny dispute arising on the occasion of, or in connection with, the Olympic Games shall be submitted exclusively to the Court of Arbitration for Sport . . . .” As it stands, this may not be sufficient because human rights disputes need to be filtered through the expertise of an independent Human Rights Committee, and the CAS may not be equipped to deal with large scale human rights issues in procurement process (despite expertise it may have in handling human rights issues at the athlete level). However, “[i]t would be a straightforward matter for these measures to be applied or even expanded upon and supplemented to deal with any human rights abuse within the Olympic Movement, including by providing victims with access to appropriate remedies.” For example, the CAS’s authority and expertise concerning contractual disputes could allow it to adjudicate human rights issues in the context of breach of contract claims. Therefore, with the proper modification, the CAS could potentially be a suit- able forum with which the Human Rights Committee could collaborate to provide victims access to remedy.

If the IOC’s Human Rights Committee would rather be responsible for creating its own internal process, the IOC should follow the World Bank’s Guide to Designing and Implementing Grievance Mechanisms for Development Projects (World Bank Guide) to conceptualize how to create an effective remedial process. The Guide documents “[f]our [p]hases of [d]esigning and [i]mplementing [g]rievance [m]echanisms”:

  • Phase 1. Define scope and determine goals. The design team develops the overarching purpose and goals for the grievance mechanism and makes sure that design decisions flow from its purpose.
  • Phase 2. Design. The design team assembles a preliminary plan that outlines the purpose, goals, scope, resolution approaches, structure, and specifics about how the grievance mechanism will function. This preliminary plan is tested and refined through consultation with employees and community members and presented to senior management for their approval.
  • Phase 3. Implement. The company and the community work together to introduce, refine, and institutionalize the grievance mechanism.
  • Phase 4. Monitor, report, and learn. Information is gathered on the effectiveness of the mechanism in particular and, more generally, on the company’s ability to prevent and address grievances. This information is used to refine the system.

In Phase 1, the IOC should define the scope based on the “type of grievances that are likely to arise or . . . have arisen” in the past. It is essential that the IOC’s Human Rights Committee come to a genuine “consensus on a statement of purpose” that contemplates whether the grievance mechanism will focus on “identifying root causes of conflict and addressing them through systemic change,” or solely “on the resolution of individual complaints,” and ensures that it will not “be structured in a way that does not reinforce power inequities.”

The World Bank Guide’s explanation of Phase 2 identifies the most fundamental components of and steps for designing a good grievance mechanism:

  • Receive and register a complaint.
  • Screen and assess the complaint.
  • Formulate a response.
  • Select a resolution approach.
  • Implement the approach.
  • Settle the issues.
  • Track and evaluate results.
  • Learn from the experience and communicate back to all parties involved.

Phases 3 and 4 expand on the latter four bullet points. The IOC should implement its grievance mechanism by introducing it to the relevant parties, spreading the word about the mechanism to the communities involved, and “train[ing] and support[ing] participants.” Finally, the World Bank Guide identifies the proper steps the IOC can take to monitor the effectiveness of the mechanism and making necessary improvements under Phase 4:

  • Get the right people and create suitable forums.
  • Establish clear standards and criteria for evaluation.
  • Create a plan to implement changes to the mechanism.
  • Report back to the community.
  • Learn and modify.

It is beyond the scope of this Note to decide whether the many human rights abuse victims in past Olympics should have the opportunity to seek redress from the Human Rights Committee. However, by following this guidance, the IOC can ensure that any individuals who suffered violations to their rights during preparations for future Olympics, despite due diligence efforts, are heard and their situations effectively remedied.

V. Conclusion

The solution that this Note proposes would provide the IOC a necessary conduit to “put sport at the service of humanity.” Having a permanent and independent Human Rights Committee will help the IOC ensure that its other impressive efforts, such as including human rights provisions in host city con- tracts, are not in vain. This Note does not in any way argue that protection of athletes’ human rights is somehow less important than safeguarding the rights of individuals involved in the Olympic procurement process. However, many steps the IOC has taken to strengthen its commitment to human rights have concerned only athlete rights, ignoring that the Olympics mainly threaten the rights of non-athletes. This Note does not seek to decide for the IOC how its Human Rights Committee should handle differing issues concerning athletes and individuals involved in the procurement process, but the IOC must aim to address both.

If the IOC had a properly commissioned Human Rights Committee with due diligence and remedy roles during the Beijing 2008 and Rio 2016 Olympics, perhaps those Games would not have left behind such painful legacies. Thomas Bach’s implication that the Advisory Committee on Human Rights established in December 2018 would focus only on issues such as transgender athlete rights and that it would not address the claims that Muslims are being forced into internment camps in China leading up to the Beijing 2022 Winter Games, demonstrate the IOC’s desperate need for a panel of experts in the form of a Human Rights Committee. This Note does not seek to make the IOC responsible for solving all human rights problems in a given host state, but it should be its responsibility, through the Human Rights Committee’s authority, to ensure that human rights are not violated as a result of actions taken to prepare for an Olympiad.