The Olympics can evoke the grandest of ideals: fair competition guided by universal rules, infused with genuine sportsmanship, challenging each of us to be our best while fostering international cooperation.
Of course, the same may be said of the global anti-corruption movement: we want a level playing field, with fair and transparent rules, promoting integrity, innovation, and prosperity, while building transnational relations of mutual dependence and trust. What the Olympics aim to do in athletics, anti-corruption law does in business and government.
Hardly surprising, then, to find these two great trajectories intersecting today. The Olympics have become high-profile case studies in the effectiveness of a nation’s anti-corruption measures. And no country may now be poised to tell a more compelling story than Brazil, which hosts the 2016 Summer Games in glorious Rio de Janeiro.
The intersection of athletics and anti-corruption measures is not new; indeed, it has been present from the beginning. The first recorded instance of Olympic anti-corruption enforcement occurred in 396 B.C., when officials were fined for “dishonest judgment.”
Since then, we’ve witnessed match-fixing and match-throwing, not to mention the IOC-bribery scandals that have increasingly come to light since the Salt Lake City Games. Everyone has heard these stories—Olympic corruption in this context is old news. What has not been as well examined, however, is the relationship between the Olympics and a host city’s particular anti-corruption efforts.
What is the impact of bringing the Olympics to a city? Do the Games force a clean-up of corruption risks in the host city’s (and country’s) business and government? Or do the pressures of the Games and the international spotlight expose, or even exacerbate, existing corruption? In the past, host countries have had to make promises to improve the state of human rights, or environmental conditions, before hosting the Games. Does the IOC make any such demands regarding domestic corruption, transparency, and approved methods of Olympic contract allocation? Or is corruption simply a matter left to the interpretation of the media, a post-hoc variable factored into analyses of the Games’ “success”?
These are some of the questions our team, in conjunction with Professor Andy Spalding, is looking to answer. We’ll travel to Brazil in March to conduct interviews with various stakeholders to these Games. 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. We are also seeking donations, whether in-kind or cash, to help defray the students’ travel and research expenses. If you wish to support our work in any way, please contact us here or follow this link. We greatly appreciate your help!
Patrick Barr is a second-year student 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 University and his Masters in Secondary Education from Providence College. Prior to attending law school Patrick spent two years as a volunteer high school teacher.
Ann Reid is in her second year at the University of Richmond School of Law. She previously studied foreign affairs and history at the University of Virginia, spent a semester in Cairo assessing the viability of Egypt’s post-revolution government, and competed on the varsity women’s crew team.
Rina Van Orden is a third-year student at the University of Richmond School of Law where she is Lead Articles Editor of the Law Review and is earning a certificate in Intellectual Property law. She received a B.A. in English from Bucknell University and previously worked as the Creative Director & Senior Editor for Ranch & Coast Magazine.