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The Rio 2016 Olympics: A Window into Our World (Part Four)

In the Olympic Charter, the International Olympic Committee has specifically identified human rights, environmental issues, and international intellectual property laws as major topics that host-country contracts and laws must address. However, corruption and transparency receive comparatively little attention. This leaves the host country free to adopt its own anti-corruption measures, if it takes any such action at all.

The hands-off approach of the IOC can result in gaps, especially if the host country does not have an adequate anti-corruption enforcement system already in place. Brazil has passed a number of laws in recent years in an effort to combat corruption, including the Clean Companies Act. However, Brazil does not have a Supremacy Clause that requires federal law to be uniformly enacted and enforced at the state level.  The country thus provides a valuable case study, raising several important questions.

For example, has state-level interpretation and execution of the Brazilian federal anti-corruption law created confusion between various government agencies and corporations? Is that confusion at risk of being misperceived as corruption? If so, how can such a perception be avoided?

Does the IOC need to add a mandate to their contract that would make anti-corruption measures in the context of the Olympics uniformly robust between one host country and the next, helping to clear confusion on these issues?

Is what the media likes to call corruption in the wake of mega sporting events actually true corruption, or just the operational costs of a federal system and a regionally-hosted mega event?

Lastly, are the host-country reforms currently mandated by the IOC necessarily as universal and leveling as the organization believes them to be, given the peculiarities of domestic enforcement?

These are some of the questions our team is looking to answer through our research and our interviews when we travel to Brazil this March. You can read our preliminary paper on the subject and our proposed research here. If you have insight or experience with these issues, we would love to hear from you; please email Prof. Andy Spalding at [email protected]


Andy Spalding is a Senior Editor of the FCPA Blog and Assistant Professor at the University of Richmond School of Law.

Patrick Barr is a second-year at the University of Richmond School of Law where he is a member of the Trial Advocacy Board, the Client Counseling and Negotiation Board, and the Federalist Society. He received his B.A. in History from Villanova and his Masters in Secondary Education from Providence College. Prior to attending law school Patrick spent two years as a volunteer high school teacher.

Many thanks to Ann Reid and Rina Van Orden for their comments.

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