Yesterday’s announcement that the 2028 Summer Olympics have been awarded to Los Angeles has an underappreciated significance for the anti-corruption movement. It is the first Olympic Games in which the host city will be under a contractual obligation to prevent corruption.
With each Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee enters into an omnibus contract with the host city. That contract covers a variety of issues: the provision of services, the distribution of revenues, advertising rights, dispute resolution, etc. The 46-page Los Angeles 2028 contract can be found here (pdf).
But for the first time in history, the latest host-city contract contains a provision obligating the host city to prevent corruption in the preparation of the Games. Specifically, at page 17, the contract provides that the host city, the host National Olympic Committee, and the host’s Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, shall:
refrain from any act involving fraud or corruption, in a manner consistent with any international agreements, laws and regulations applicable in the Host Country and all internationally-recognized anti-corruption standards applicable in the Host Country, including by establishing and maintaining effective reporting and compliance.
This step is several years in the making. Transparency International has been working with the IOC to insert such language into the host-city contract. Last year they finally succeeded, thanks in very large part to the efforts of German lawyer Sylvia Schenk, a former Olympic track runner who today volunteers a great deal of her time and energy to the Olympic anti-corruption effort. This new contractual language may be Sylvia’s greatest Olympic achievement.
Though the LA 2028 contract is the first with anti-corruption language, 2028 will probably not be the first Games that are subject to such a provision. In an unprecedented move, the IOC has publicly awarded the 2028 Games before the 2024 Games. LA and Paris were the last cities standing in pursuing the 2024 bid, and the IOC reached an agreement with both cities in which it would give 2024 to Paris and 2028 to LA.
The Paris 2024 announcement should be made shortly, and that contract should also contain the same or similar anti-corruption language. Assuming it does, 2024 will be the first Olympic Games in which the host city is under a contractual obligation to prevent corruption. The 2026 Winter Games, which will likely not be awarded for two more years, will presumably be governed by a similar provision.
Since the Salt Lake City bribery scandal of the 1990s, the IOC has been addressing corruption in the bidding process. But the corruption scandals of Sochi 2014, Rio 2016, and Pyeongchang 2018 mainly concerned post-bid corruption — that is, corruption occurring in the seven-year period of preparation between the awarding of the bid and the opening ceremony.
In the coming months, and years, we’ll discuss at some length the significance of this historic step.
Andy Spalding is a lecturer at the International Anti-Corruption Academy, Professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, and Senior Editor of the FCPA Blog.