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IOC’s Efforts for Stamping out Corruption

Thu, Aug. 18, 2016 Posted: 11:51 AM


The Olympic Movement, still the foremost international sporting event competition, has had its name tarnished by incidents of corruption and bribery among its committee members. Covering several hosting, there are allegations of candidate cities giving money and gifts to the members to influence their votes and hand over a win for a host city.

These speculations, true or not, are hurting the Olympics image of fair play and integrity, prompting investigations from separate agencies to protect the movement and prevent future attempts. The most infamous corruption to take place in the bidding for the host city is the 2002 Winter Olympics held in Salt Lake City, Utah. Members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the governing body of the organization, had accepted money and gifts, scholarships and jobs in the US for their sons and daughters and free medical treatment in the US for other relatives, all expenses charged to the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.

The investigating entities included the IOC and the US Department of Justice. Each one came up with their own findings and recommendations. Heads rolled, leaders resigned and a few were acquitted. But the IOC did not stop there. It made radical reforms to the rules in the bidding process to ensure that wrongdoings will not occur again. This meant travels to candidate cities are restricted and gifts given must only be nominal. The IOC also created an Ethics Commission made up of well-respected, independent and outside members from different countries.

Thomas Bach, current IOC president, referring to the Russian doping scandal that blew up last year, has said that they “have all the rules and instruments in place to fight corruption with zero tolerance.” The doping scandal was first revealed in a documentary by German broadcaster ARD which alleged that state-sponsored doping in majority of Russian athletes are making them win in major international competitions. The money trail led to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) officers, resulting in the filing of charges by the French police against its ex-president Lamine Diack for bribery, corruption and money laundering.

The investigation eventually led to the discovery of a $2.2 million deposit to a Singapore account from a Japanese account. The account linked Diack’s son and raised the possibility of Japan bribing IOC members to clinch the 2020 Olympic Games bid for host city. In response to this payment, Japanese Olympics Committee (JOC) President Takeda declared that this was a proper consulting fee that was for a presentation focused toward a successful bid for the 2020 Olympics. It has already been nearly half a year since the start of the investigation, but no positive proof has been found at this point.

But is the IOC really immune from corruption and bribery? Bach may have issued reassurances but there are more than 200 other Olympic-related committees and federations in member nations over which the IOC may not have absolute supervision. These are the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and the International Federations (IFs.) At present, there are 206 NOCs spread over Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Oceania and 3 international sports federations under which are several organizations for specific sports.

The NOC of a country is subject to the control of the IOC. It is responsible for selecting which cities in its country may bid for the host city selection. A city cannot join the Olympics bidding for the venue without approval from the NOC of the country it belongs to. The NOC also has the authority to select the teams and athletes in its country that may participate in the Olympic Games.

The International Federations, notably the federations for the Summer Olympics, the Winter Games and IOC-recognized sports federations, are non-government organizations that are independent from the IOC but must observe principles and perform activities that align with those of the Olympics movement. The IF is responsible for the development of the particular sports it governs and compliance to the sports rules. It monitors all activities related to the sports, including the teams, coaches and players.

In a word, NOCs and IFs have strict rules and can halt instances of bribery and corruption through monitoring adherence to their rules and principles. Yet at the same time, it is a fact that in their bid to host the Olympics many cities make a direct contact with one of the over 100 members of the IOC that have the ability to vote on the host city.

The International Olympic Committee is certainly aware of these possibilities but keeping an eye on the numerous committees and its members spread out all over the globe is a Herculean task for any organization, even the Olympics.

However, the IOC has countermeasures for this activity. In a 1999 IOC meeting it became prohibited for IOC members to request or receive remuneration or benefits associated with the hosting of the Olympics. In addition, there was a blanket ban on IOC members visiting prospective host cities. This decision was a response to the recommendation of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) special committee’s Pound Report.

The Rio Olympics have already begun. As we move it the future it is desired for noble sporting events, particularly the Olympics, to be transparent and possess integrity so that we can focus on the actions and successes of the athletes.

Veronica Hanks