Olympic governance: Some conclusions
For over a century, international sport has mainly been governed by a network of non-proﬁt associations centered round the Olympic Games and the World Championships in various sports. This network has adopted the name of “The Olympic Movement,” and its leading actor is the International Olympic Committee (IOC): a club of individuals that co-opts its own members and that was founded in 1894 by Pierre de Coubertin. Despite the considerable evolution of sport during the twentieth
century and the increasing scale of the Summer and Winter Games, the IOC continued to exist without major changes to its structure throughout what proved to be a century beset by upheavals of all kinds. It was only in 1999 that the very foundations of the IOC suddenly shook, as a result of around twenty of its members being involved in a corruption scandal related to the awarding of the Olympic Winter Games to Salt Lake City. It was also around this time that doping, violence and illegal betting at sports events began to constitute a serious concern for governments, who realized that the Olympic movement was unable to keep those issues under any real control. And so, at the end of the last century, the IOC suddenly found itself confronted with doubts regarding its legitimacy on the part of the general public and the public authorities. We can situate the emergence of the term “governance” within
Olympic circles around this same period, notably thanks to the inﬂuence of American journalists and sponsors. It was ofﬁcially introduced within the Olympic Charter in 2004 (Rule 19.3.2) although in a marginal manner. This focus on governance is a result of the dysfunctions mentioned above but also, as of the 1980s, of the growing professionalism within Olympic organizations and the increasing interest on the part of the various stakeholders-and particularly nation states, the European Union and the sponsors-in how the Olympic system functions.
Although this system was one of the oldest ways of self-government by means of a network, with its consensual, horizontal co-ordination mechanisms, its fragile equilibrium became threatened at the end of the past century as a result of new types of public or commercial actors (sponsors, media companies, professional leagues) that wished to take part in its governance. The question how the IOC is governed remains central within the
new organization of world sport at the dawning of the present century, which is why we have focused considerably on the IOC in this work. We shall conclude by outlining the IOC’s ﬁve levels of governance and by proposing ﬁve principles for the governance of the Olympic system and of world sport.