Conference logbook pt. 4: adapting to changes

By Inga Galstian, EOA editor

As part of the EOA Congress in November, the EOA hosted a conference in which several important issues were addressed. The three previous sessions on Politics & Peace, Sustainability and Integrity were documented in this Conference Logbook series. The final session of the day concerned credibility. Stefan Klos and Alexandre Miguel Mestre were invited to spotlight credibility in the field of sports and the Olympics.

Check out the other Conference logbook parts

Stefan Klos is CEO of ProProjekt, a project management company consisting of an interdisciplinary team of sport managers and engineers, has been advising sport associations and organisations for over 20 years and is an expert in the sport events industry. Besides his focus on strategic planning, bidding and major events in sport, he advised the NOC in the planning of the Olympic Games and was most recently involved in the IOC Agenda 2020, contributing to the simplification and sustainability of the Games.

Introducing his presentation “Bidding the Games – from beauty contest to targeted dialogue”, Klos delivers the good news that 2022, probably the most challenging and problematic year for those in the room, is finally ending soon. Why is this good news? Klos justified that, from a philosophical point of view, sport as a value has never been discussed so strongly and publicly before as it has been this year. From a scientific perspective, after an all-time low, things can only get better. 2022 is a turning point, and things are indeed getting better with the next Olympia & Paralympic Games ahead.

Speaking of which, Klos observed a change in the approach to such events. It is no longer an approach concerning the question of how these Games are conducted, but it is rather a shift to the “era of the question why”. He also called this a shift from a hard to a soft legacy, an era of Olympic values and morals.

How did such a shift occur? The hugely successful 1996 and 2000 Games, the so-called “Coca Cola Games” – Atlanta 1996 – and Sydney 2000, created a huge demand for bidding. At the time, there were almost a dozen of interested cities that wanted to host the Games. This is where the Games developed into a kind of beauty contest. It was no longer about which interested party ensured and represented sustainability and important values but much more about who could offer the newer and more modern venues who could host the best games, offer more sports, etc., which resulted in the cost of bidding to host the Games alone was immensely expensive, more precisely 100 million EUR, which is only the cost of the bid.

In 2022, the European Championships were held in Munich, which led many to ask why Munich was not a candidate for the next Games. Klos argued that Munich might have a great urban legacy for hosting the 1972 Games but does not have enough infrastructure to host them nowadays.

Especially in European countries, a kind of collapse is taking place. For the 2022 Olympic Games, five out of seven bidders dropped out, partly for cost reasons, all of them European cities. The same happened with the decision on the host cities for the 2024 and 2026 Olympic Games.

Klos spoke of an unsolvable Olympic paradox, which consists of the fact that cities that have the necessary infrastructure, passion and knowledge for hosting the Games withdrew from bidding, whereas now cities become hosts that do not have the necessary infrastructure and have to spend the money to build it.

Klos sees the responsibility of the IOC to break the vicious circle. In its Agenda 2020, the IOC changed the way in which the hosting of the Games is awarded, in line with the new motto that cities do not have to adapt to the Games, but the Games to the city.

In Europe, hosting the Games has for too long been seen as an urban planning opportunity that makes money or opens up other opportunities for cities. This is a dead end and not the goal of hosting the Games. So there needs to be a new “why”, not a new “how”, a new narrative about why a city wants to host the Games.

The IOC changed the process from a degenerate beauty contest to a two-step process. Whenever contemplating hosting the games, the IOC helps with guidelines, partnerships and gives an overview of the best options with a master plan and the best possible city to conduct it. Then, if the IOC thinks the candidate is feasible and offers a sustainable concept that is based on legacy, it will incorporate the candidate into the targeted dialogue.

Klos concluded the lecture with a touching anecdote. He started following the Olympic Games as a child and has never missed one since. In his eyes, the Olympic Games are meant to refuel and inspire emotions. They serve as a representation and inspiration for children and young people of all sports who are following either the biggest tragedy or triumph of their lives.

Sport has the power to change things. However, its responsibility is not to change and promote cities or their economies but to touch hearts and souls. Klos ended the lecture with the following sentence:

“That’s the story that needs to be told and it needs to be told by you”.

Stefan Klos (2022, Frankfurt)

Following on, Alexandre Miguel Mestre presented “The New IOC Strategic Framework on Human Rights: How can the Olympic Movement “Walk the Talk”?” Mestre is a lawyer at Abreu Advogados and a lecturer at the Universidade Lusófona and The Football Business Academy. He is also a member of the UEFA Governance and Compliance Committee.

Mestre considers organisations such as the IOC or the IOA to have the responsibility of making human rights a topic and their mission. He suggested three levels of accountability within the IOC, namely as an organisation that sets regulations and guidelines, as the owner of the Olympic Games, which should choose the hosts of the next Games wisely, and finally, as the leader of the Olympic Movement. Above all, he made a distinction between those who are within the context of the Olympic Movement and those who are outside this bubble, what he called the “civil public”. In order to avoid misunderstandings about the Olympic Movement, Mestre believes that the IOC must position itself as the core of the movement:

“As the governing body of the Olympic Movement, the IOC as an organisation must ‘walk the talk’. It is also crucial to use the experience and learnings from the IOC’s activities to improve support on human rights topic.”

Alexandre Miguel Mestre (2022, Frankfurt)

The IOC has in the past produced the document called “Framework on Fairness, Inclusion and Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sex Variations“, dedicated to human rights. It also has an explicit chapter on the safety of young athletes and the prevention of violations. It also refers to the young athletes’ freedom of voice, freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

In the Olympic Charter, sport is displayed as a human right. Accordingly, the right to physical privacy applies as well to athletes. Mestre used the example of doping to illustrate this concept; isn’t testing for doping substances outside of competitions an invasion of an athlete’s privacy? He also provided the example of the exclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes, the motives of which all insiders know and can explain, but the “civil public” does not.

For understanding, Mestre pointed again to the IOC’s document. He believed that it is the IOC’s responsibility and mission to encourage and support the IOA and other institutions that are committed to the Olympic Movement and also to spread safe sport and protect athletes from abuse of all kinds.

The following three premises can furthermore be derived from the Olympic Charter. First, the IOC is at the top of the pyramid in a federal system, and International Federations (IFs) and continental organisations are bound to the Olympic Charter. Secondly, the IOC recognises one international sports federation per sport. If the latter disregards the Olympic Charter, this recognition ceases. Finally, membership in the Olympic Movement requires the approval of the World Anti-Doping Code so that international sporting events cannot take place in countries that do not comply with the Olympic Charter.

Mestre provided two suggestions. The Olympic Charter should improve in a way that it bans international and continental sporting events from taking place in cities and countries that have been proven to violate human rights. The IOC would withdraw recognition from the IFs if this ban was to be disregarded, with the result that the IF would no longer be a member of the Olympic Movement. Although there is no legal definition of a flagrant violation of human rights, Mestre is convinced that if only a violation of human rights was sufficient for a ban, there would be very few countries that would not be affected by it.

Ultimately, Mestre questioned who takes a decisive role in judging what constitutes a flagrant violation of human rights. The IOC – or the IOC in cooperation with the UN – could take on this role, and it is important to keep in mind that the IOC has observer status at the UN General Assembly.

For further questions or comments, feel free to get in touch with the lecturers.

Stefan Klos

Alexandre Miguel Mestre
Abreu Advogados

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