International Olympic Committee – abdicating responsibility

What do you expect from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), as head of the Olympic family and owner of the Olypmic symbols, when it comes to respecting workers’ rights?

Well, Playfair 2012 expects the IOC to show leadership for starters. No where in the IOC’s Code of Ethics does it mention respect for the human rights of workers involved in delivering the Games. This isn’t just a glaring omission. The IOC has resisted calls from the international Play Fair campaign to make this change to the Code for several years. Yet the Olympic Charter talks about “respect for…. fundamental ethical principles”. So from the IOC’s perspective, does this not include respect for the rights of these workers?Â

The IOC should show leadership by ensuring that contracts between members of the Olympic family and companies providing goods and services to the Games include respect for internationally recognised labour standards. Crucial as this may seem to the delivery of ‘the greatest show on earth’ the IOC’s position is this….

“The IOC does not directly manage and control the production of all Olympic-related products across the world. As you can imagine, there are many products and sporting goods sourced for the Olympic Games, the Organising Committees, the 205 National Olympic Committees and the 35 International Sports Federations. The IOC does, however, encourage all parties within the Olympic Movement to work with suppliers who adhere to fair and ethical labour practices. For branded products managed directly by the IOC, the necessary contractual clauses exist in our supplier purchasing agreements.” Andrew Mitchell, International Relations Manager, IOC

Translating into….”it’s not our responsibility, even though we own the Olypmic logo and symbols”. Encouraging members of the Olympic family to work with suppliers who adhere to fair and ethical laobur practices is taking a soft approach to respecting workers’ human rights.

The exploitative working conditions documented in Toying with Workers’ Rights (Play Fair, 2012) demonstrates that the IOC’s approach isn’t working, and hasn’t been working for some time – given the similar conditions found in Olympic production for Beijing 2008 and Athens 2004.

Play Fair will continue to call on the IOC to take concrete steps to protect workers’ rights (see Toying with Workers’ Rights for more details), and to build on the progress made by London 2012. It’s time for the IOC to stop abdicating responsibility for ensuring that the human rights of workers involved in delivering the Games are respected.

March 30th, 2012

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