Like a lot of people around the word right now, I am enjoying watching the telecasts of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Do the Olympic Games have special laws? Yes they do.
The Olympic organisation is established under the Olympic Charter. The most recent version is dated 2013. This document functions like the constitution of a country: it sets up the main bodies or groups of bodies that make up the Olympic organisation, and defines their relationships. The four main components are:
- The IOC (International Olympic Committee)
- The IOFs (International Olympic Federations)
- The National Olympic Committees (one per member country)
- The Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, the membership of which will vary depending on which country is next hosting the Games.
There is also a role played by the governing body for each sport, which are called “International Federations”. For example, FIFA, which is the peak body for football (soccer) in the world is the IF for that sport, and controls the rules for the sport that are applied in the Olympic Games, and also supplies the referees.
Like every system of rules, the purpose of the rules that are made under the umbrella of the Olympic Charter is to assist an orderly system of activity. The Olympic rules ensure that the various Olympic bodies run smoothly, that the Games are staged properly, and that any arguments that develop during the Games or in the activity of the parts of the Olympic system can be settled in a sensible way.
“The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.” – Fundamental Principles of Olympism.
Every body of rules needs someone to apply and interpret them In 1984, the IOC established a special court, called the Court of Arbitration for Sport, to hear and settle disputes involving performances at Olympic Games. The Court’s function extends to examining allegations of doping by athletes. The CAS is now an independent body, although it continues to hear cases related to the Olympic Games. Recently (July 2016), the CAS ruled that the Russian Federation should not be allowed to enter its team of athletes in the 2016 Rio Games, because of doping problems that had been going on for years involving official coaches. The IOC decided to allow individual Russian athletes who had passed doping tests or who had served out suspensions for doping in some sports, to compete in the Games.
[This blog post is not intended as legal advice for any particular person. The author, James Irving, is a commercial lawyer who practises in Perth, Australia. Please visit the Irving Law website for more information. Photo credit: PeterPietras.jpg by Gpogrrowski public domain photograph downloaded from Wikimedia Commons and used here under a CC-BY-SA 4.0 licence. Peter Pietras was a football player and member of the 1936 American Olympic Team that competed in the Berlin Summer Games.]