Tag Archive | "Olympics"


Critical Analysis: Another Olympics, Another Human Rights Situation

In 2008, the International Olympic Committee was widely criticized for allowing China to showcase Beijing while not adequately addressing human rights concerns.  Five years later, the IOC is now embroiled in another human rights situation, as Sochi, Russia, will host the 2014 winter Olympics.  The 2014 Sochi Olympics have been criticized for a number of human rights issues, including passing laws that discriminate against the LGBT community.  Have the IOC and its main sponsors learned anything from 2008 or are they repeating the same mistakes?

LGBT athletes face possible discrimination at the Russian Olympics.

Athletes will face possible discrimination at the Russian Olympics as new laws specifically target LGBT groups.

In 2013, Vladimir Putin has signed multiple bills into the law that discriminate against the LGBT community.  These include laws that prevent the adoption of Russian children by gay couples or individuals.  Another law allows police to arrest tourists and foreign nationals who are suspected of being gay or for being “pro-gay.”   Furthermore, a law has been passed that categorized any gay propaganda as pornography.   These discriminatory laws have created an international backlash.  There have been a number of protests, including bars not serving Russian vodka.

The second Fundamental Principle of Olympism includes “the preservation of human dignity.”  The IOC has tried responding to the outrage and protests over these laws.   After these laws were passed, the IOC reiterated their commitment to ensuring that the 2014 Olympics were free from discrimination.  In October, 2013, the IOC president received assurances from Putin that athletes and visitors to the games will not be affected by these laws.

In addition to dealing with the government of Russia, Human Rights Watch has also pressed Olympic sponsors about the human rights concerns within Russia.  Human Rights Watch wrote to the top sponsors of the Olympic games, including Coca-Cola, General Electric, and McDonald’s, to ask them to take steps to help alleviate these abuses.   While several of the corporations responded, none have been willing to actively speak out against the abuses.  Human Rights Watch highlights that these corporate sponsors have failed to take active steps to reverse the negative human rights situation in Russia.

It appears that the IOC and the major Olympic sponsors have failed to learn any lessons from the 2008 games.  Once again they have failed to live up to the Olympic Charter and continue to showcase a country that is violating its citizens’ human rights.  While the IOC has received assurances that surround the games, this does nothing to protect the individuals that have to live in Russia after the games.  Russia’s sports minister stated that the law was not a mistake, but the timing of the law was a mistake.  While individuals in and around the games may be free from anti-gay laws for three weeks in February, the IOC and its sponsors have again failed to take action to prevent human rights abuses in a country that it is willing to highlight for three weeks.

Wesley Fry is a 3L and Editor-in-Chief of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

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Critical Analysis: Is it Economically Responsible for a Country to Host the Olympic Games?

The cost of hosting the Olympics. Is it a mistake or an opportunity to profit?
Photograph: Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty Images

Once athletes and tourists pack their bags and head home, Olympic host cities must determine how to move forward.  Although the Olympics bring great opportunity to a city and country, host cities often struggle to profit from such a wildly popular event.  Significant losses result when cities cannot put Olympic stadiums to use, new infrastructures negatively impacts other areas (i.e. traffic), and the boom of tourism drops. Oftentimes, host cities aim to avoid substantial loss and hope to simply break even.

Athens, Greece spent $15 billion hosting the 2004 Summer Olympic Games.  Athens reveled in its recognition as the smallest country in history to host the Olympic Games.  However, following the 2004 Games, Greece was the first European Union country to be placed under financial monitoring by the European Commission in 2005.  Furthermore, the Games are said to have contributed to Greece’s declaration of bankruptcy.   The state contributed a large portion of the funding to host the Olympics and spent a significant amount on permanent structures.  However, since 2004 the structures have fallen into disrepair and the new transportation infrastructure has created flooding and traffic problems.  Unfortunately, in the years following the Olympics, Greece realized it has failed to use the Games as a stepping stone into the future.

Beijing continues to experience the effects of hosting the 2008 Olympic Games.  Of the $42 billion dollars China spent on hosting the 2008 Games, $3 billion was dedicated to permanent stadiums.  Most venues have since been abandoned.  The city continues to lose money because it cannot secure long-term tenants in its Olympic stadiums.  In addition, the stadiums still in use suffer significant loses each year, even with the financial assistance from the public.

Although London intended to scale back its expenses for the 2012 Olympics by building dynamic and temporary structures, it still cost about $16 billion to host the Games, some of which included public funds.  Now, London must move quickly to avoid becoming the next Athens or Beijing.  Although efforts are moving rapidly thanks to large government and private contributions, London can only hope its regeneration efforts for the East End succeed, and sooner rather than later.

It remains to be seen how the much-anticipated 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil will impact the city and country.  Already protests have begun in Brazil in response to hosting not only the 2016 Olympics but also the 2014 World Cup.  At first, protests occurred in response to a fare hike on the public bus system, but now protests are in response to accusations of misappropriation of funds and a corrupt system.  If the government continues to sink money into fancy new structures but fails to use the opportunity to improve the city’s infrastructure, protests will continue.  Without the necessary infrastructure and a plan for the years following the sporting events, the long-term benefits to the Brazilian people will be lost and Brazil will be added to the growing list of countries incurring huge losses in the wake of world-renowned but short lived Olympic Games.

One can hope the future hosts of the Olympic Games will learn from the mistakes of previous host countries.  Cities need to focus not just on celebrating the event but also how to yield long-term profits from the opportunity.  The Olympics provide the chance for a country to build essential infrastructure, boost its economy, and gain global recognition.  More importantly, the Olympics have the potential to propel a country into the future.

Lindsey Weber is a 2L and the Projects Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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