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    An Olympic embrace? A critical evaluation of the IOC’s commitment to human rights

    Byrne, Seamus and Lee Ludvigsen, Jan Andre (2023) An Olympic embrace? A critical evaluation of the IOC’s commitment to human rights. International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics. ISSN 1940-6940

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    Abstract

    The intersection of sport and human rights has demonstrated that the actions of global sport mega-event franchise owners can now no longer be viewed as impervious to wider human rights considerations. In examining recent operational developments undertaken by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), as evidenced by their institutional embrace of international human rights standards, this article cautions against an uncritical acclaim of such developments. By drawing upon legal texts, the extant literature on the overlap of both sport and human rights law, and Foucault’s governmentality theory, it argues that whilst the IOC’s embrace of human rights remains a positive development, their ongoing application of the ‘clean venue’ principle on Olympic Host Cities remains problematic for two key reasons. It argues, first, that the ‘clean venue’ principle can be understood as a governmental technique that disciplines and controls Olympic spaces, and those who fall within the regulatory, legal, and operational reach of the principle itself, whilst preserving the existing political economy in which the Olympics are embedded within. Secondly, it argues that as an inescapable expression of the IOC’s commercial and contractual control, the ‘clean venue’ principle raises additional human rights concerns which impact upon various rights such as freedom of assembly and expression and the rights of local communities within and around Olympic and ‘non-Olympic’ spaces. Ultimately, this article contends that while the IOC’s recent operational developments are to be welcomed, much work remains to ensure that human rights law is more visibly foregrounded within the IOC’s legal framework.

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