Are the Olympics Finally Ready to Confront Human Rights Abuses?

Los Angeles just announced it will host the 2028 Olympics, meaning that Paris will claim the Games in 2024. And both cities have agreed to sign a new contract to protect human rights.

After all, the recent Olympics have sparked major controversies. Rio de Janeiro displaced 22,000 families from their homes after the 2016 Olympics were announced. China cracked down on free speech and press. Russia maintained its notorious anti-LGBT laws.

At the same time, the International Olympic Committee has often turned a blind eye.

“Time after time, Olympic hosts have gotten away with abusing workers building stadiums, and with crushing critics and media who try to report about abuses,” said Human Rights Watch‘s Minky Worden. “The right to host the Olympics needs to come with the responsibility not to abuse basic human rights.”

The revised contract requires host cities to address human rights violations, corruption, discrimination and fraud. It asks that they “protect and respect human rights” and eliminate abuses “in a manner consistent with international agreements, laws and regulations applicable in the Host Country…[and] all internationally-recognised human rights standards and principles.”

But will the new standards be enough?

Human rights and sports researcher Adam Talbot doesn’t think so. He told Outside in March that the rules mean nothing without a structure to enforce them.

For instance, the United States would likely get a pass, despite President Donald Trump’s overt discriminatory immigration and travel policies.

“Without any clear system for enforcing these rules, they will only be useful as a stick for activists to beat the IOC with,” Talbot told Outside. “When human rights allegations are happening, activists like the SRA [Sport and Rights Alliance] and people on the ground will be able to point to these rules and call on the IOC to act. But in terms of actual respect for human rights, this guarantees very little.”

Hopefully, the revised contract isn’t just a Band-Aid on the Olympics’ history of ignoring human rights abuses.

As Uni World Athletes’ Brendan Schwab tells Outside, corporations that bankroll the Games may be able to strong-arm the IOOC to uphold its promises. And at least now the problem is being openly acknowledged.

Photo Credit: tompagenet

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