IOC Rule Enforcement for 2024 Olympic Bids Mimics Sport

IOC Members vote to unanimously approve Agenda 2020 recommendation at 127th IOC Session (IOC Photo)
IOC Members vote to unanimously approve Agenda 2020 recommendation at 127th IOC Session (IOC Photo)

On Thursday the International Olympic Committee (IOC), for the first time published a list of penalties that could be imposed on bids for the Olympics Games should they, or their consultants, break any of the rules laid out in the 14-page document “Rules of Conduct for the Olympic Games 2024 Bid Process.”

The rules, inspired by Agenda 2020 and effective immediately cover areas ranging from the use of consultants, where and when the bid can be promoted, the manner in which bid members may interact with IOC members, international federations, members of the media and the other competing cities.  Guidelines around the use of gifts and sponsorships are also outlined.

Included for the first time is a list of specific reprimands that can be leveraged by the IOC to punish any offending bids.  For minor breaches an initial infraction will warrant a simple written notification to the city, but for subsequent occurrences, the IOC Executive Board and the competing cities will also receive written notices.

But for “serious or repeated breaches of the Rules of Conduct” the case will be referred to the IOC Ethics Commission that will recommend any necessary sanctions that can be imposed by the IOC Executive Board.

Also for the first time, consultants risk expulsion from Olympic bid city business if they fail to comply with the same rules.

Like the yellow and red cards in football, penalty minutes in hockey or disallowed “points” that are found in the world of sport – the IOC has listed its own disciplinary actions if the bid cities don’t play fair.

The penalties can include (from document):

  • The deduction of one or several votes (minimum one, maximum five) during the election by the Session, for the first round or for several rounds;
  • A fine;
  • A reduction in the presentation time of the candidature at the briefing for IOC members or during the Session;
  • The Candidate City supporting delegation being prohibited from attending the presentation to the Session;
  • The official exclusion of a member of the candidature team;
  • Withdrawal of the entry of a consultant in the register for a specific period of time and at least one year;
  • A warning together with publication of an official IOC press release sent individually to all the IOC members.

The deduction of five votes, likely to be dealt only under extreme circumstances, could have a significant impact on the election as in many cases with large fields, positions in the voting results are less than five votes are part.  Sochi, London and Vancouver all won their bids on the final ballot by four votes or less.

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You can download the “Rules of Conduct for the Olympic Games 2024 Bid Process” by clicking here.


In the recent past ethics breaches by bid cities resulting in IOC reaction have been minimal.  Notably for the 2012 race, both London and New York were called out for offering incentives after their final plans were submitted to the IOC.  New York was later excused when it was learned that the incentives were already included in the original plans, but London was given a verbal warning because its package of “sweeteners” including free travel for athletes and other officials was a new offer – and prohibited under the existing rules.

London was forced to retract the incentives package from the bid and was given a verbal warning.  In spite of that, London went on to host the 2012 Olympic Games.

A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.

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