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Andy Spalding: Why Olympism and anti-corruption are kindred movements

The Olympic Movement, and the global anti-corruption movement, each manifest a common aspiration.  Springing from the same place in the human mind, they imagine the same alternative world, and then seek to build it.

We forget that the Olympic Games were not resurrected at the turn of the twentieth century to see who could best throw a ball in a basket or ride a bike in a circle. The sports are great fun, but they’re actually not quite the point. They’re context for a deeper purpose.

The Olympics’ founding aim was to raise a new generation committed to the ethic of international fair play — of competing, honestly, by a set of agreed-upon rules, and in a way that tended to unite the world rather than divide it. The games themselves are but a means to that noble end.

And is not anti-corruption the very same thing? It, too, expresses an ideal of global integration through fair competition. It asks us to combat the human impulse, now as threatening as ever, to isolate, disparage, and lie.

And so we who participate in the global anti-corruption movement –the readers of the FCPA Blog — should take a special interest in events unfolding in Brazil. It’s more than entertainment; it’s a story of a people making extraordinary strides to create the conditions in which competition is fair, the rules are transparent, and the cheaters are held accountable, in sports, government, and business alike.

Both in Brazilian government and Olympic competition, we’re reading a lot about cheating these days. But that may actually be good. Because the cheaters, of both kinds, are identified and disciplined, in ways that were unimaginable not too many years ago.

The IOC is expressing concern about Rio’s fitness to host these Olympics. But I say that Brazil, at this time in history, is the absolutely perfect host to the Olympic Games. No other country in the world, at this moment, is doing so much to public affirm the hope that values, laws, and institutions can change; that a tradition of cheating can be called out; that we can mitigate and deter harmful human behavior; and that the world those early Olympic founders imagined is now, a century later, slowly but steadily coming to pass.


Andy Spalding is a Senior Editor of the FCPA Blog and Associate Professor at the University of Richmond School of Law. He’s the author of the ebook Olympic Anti-Corruption Report: Brazil and the Rio 2016 Games (available here). He’ll be a speaker at the FCPA Blog NYC Conference 2016.

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  1. Brazil's efforts to fight graft, in my opinion, is almost if not evenly matched with the proliferation of corrupt acts in Brazil. The Petrobras scandal exposed how politicians can be deeply entrenched in acts of corruption. Brazil's quick response with legislations such as the Clean Company Act, etc as well as effective investigations and preventions of corruption, tells the world a lot about its readiness to fight corruption. And because these efforts serve deterrence to offenders and would be offenders, I too think, like you said, Brazil is ready for the Olympic games……..

  2. An excellent article that reminds us of the goal. Citius – Altius – Fortius. This is the Olympic motto which means Faster – Higher – Stronger. We have to keep aiming high. Isn't that we are trying to achieve in ACAB? We have a long way to go as a society. But we are talking and doing more and more about corruption and ethical failures than ever before.

  3. Dear Andy Spalding,

    As a Brazilian, I can affirm that no one else could express better what is going on in Brazil right now. We are very thankful for your enthusiasm and for helping the rest of the world to know the good sides of Brazil's current paradigm. Actually, the challenges Brazil faced while hosting the Olympic Games, exactly represents the Brazilians' daily life. Life is really hard for Brazilians, from the time they wake up, until the time they go to bed. Brazilians are challenged every single day. They face violence, poverty, unemployment, lack of fair opportunities and their government support. However, they do never lose hope and happiness. Indeed, they keep fighting.
    Yes, we do believe things are changing for the better, as you, professor, kindly highlighted.
    Ana Candido
    LL.M. Graduate at Northwestern University, class of 2014.

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