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IOC

IOC – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is the international sports governing body responsible for organizing some the biggest recurring sports events in the world, the Olympic Games. Founded in 1894, the IOC represents the interest of all National Olympic Committees (NOC’s), with currently 206 NOC’s being affiliated to the IOC[1]. Like many other sports governing bodies, the IOC is seated in Lausanne, Switzerland. As the highest authority regarding the Olympic movement, the IOC decides which sports feature in the Olympic Games. As such, the IOC also has a major influence on the international development of esports.

Since its conception the IOC has overseen the staging of the Olympic Games throughout the world. Except for during the years of global conflict (first and second world wars), the Olympic Games have been organized every four years, with the first Olympic Winter Games being held in Charmonix, France, in 1924.

History

The IOC was founded during the Olympic Congress on 23 June 1894. During the late nineteenth century, the interested in the ancient Olympic Games, organized in the Greek city-states, resurged. The IOC was founded as an independent, non-profit organization and completely relied on private funding for the organization of the first modern Olympic Games, held in Athens in 1896. The IOC is famously governed by the Olympic Charter, the codification of the fundamental principles of Olympism, and the rules and bye-laws adopted by the IOC.[2]

Structure and governance

IOC is an association according to Swiss law; however, contrary to popular believe, its members are not the various NOCs, but rather the 115 natural persons acting as IOC members.[3] The aforementioned NOCs are thus not association members in the sense of the law, but are however recognized by the IOC insofar their statutes and regulations are drafted in accordance with the Olympic Charter. Thereby the IOC exerts a hefty amount of influence over the governance of all NOCs. As such, the IOC is often regarded as being the most influential sports governing body in the world.[4]

With the passing of many Olympiads, the IOC has grown into a complex transnational institution, encompassing many different committees. Recent rallying calls of athletes have, amongst other things, resulted in the conception of athlete commission, allowing Olympic athletes to have some form of influence over IOC decision making.[5] Moreover, the working organization of the IOC is further supplemented by multiple independent actors, including, for example, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (short: CAS), the highest judicial body for sports related matters. The daily management of the IOC is delegated by the members to the executive board, consisting of one president, four vice-presidents, ten members and one director in charge.[6]

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Due to the sheer commercial magnitude of the Olympic Games, the IOC has assumed substantial amounts of authority over international sports, deciding inter alia which cities may host Olympic Games and which regulations are imposed on the NOCs. 

IOC & esports

Sport’s governing bodies around the world are grappling with their approach towards esports. Whilst most bodies have recognized the unparalleled potential of this relatively new form of sports, the incorporation of esports has proven to be cumbersome. IOC is no exception to this rule of thumb. For many years the IOC refused to take an official stance regarding esports. During the Covid-19 pandemic the integration of esports in the IOC started to gain momentum with the announcement of the Olympic Esports Series, a global virtual event featuring simulated sports event, and the Olympic Esports Week, hosted in Singapore in June 2023[7]. Therefore, the first forays into the realm of esports had a close-knit connection with traditional sports, by revolving around the gamification of existing Olympic sports.

Though many applauded the IOC for finally embracing the esports community, the events were also the subject of severe criticism. Many esports fans felt left out, as traditional esports titles, such as Counter Strike, Dota and League of Legends, were not taken into consideration by the IOC. In the wake of the first Olympic esports events, the Olympic Esports Committee was instituted during the 141st IOC session in Mumbai, India. This committee has been charged with investigating the potential organization of Olympic Esports Games[8]. Therefore, we may soon see the conception of an international esports tournament on a global scale, though it remains unclear what time path is envisioned by the IOC.


[1] National Olympic Committees (NOC) – Olympic Movement’ (Olympics.com) <https://olympics.com/ioc/national-olympic-committees> accessed 17 March 2024.

[2] ‘Olympic Charter’ (Olympics.com) <https://olympics.com/ioc/national-olympic-committees> accessed 17 March 2024

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[3] Rule 16.1.1 2019 Olympic Charter

[4] Koolaard DM, ‘Geschilbeslechting En Tuchtrecht in de Sport’, Capita Sportrecht, vol 2 (Gompel & Svacina 2021) p.58.

[5] Chappelet J-L, ‘The Governance of the Olympic System: From One to Many Stakeholders’ (2021) 8 Journal of Global Sport Management 783.

[6] ‘IOC Executive Board’ (Olympics.com) < https://olympics.com/ioc/executive-board>

[7] ‘Olympic Esports Enter the Arena’ (Olympics.com) < https://olympics.com/en/esports/>

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[8] ‘IOC announces plans to create Olympic Esports Games’ (Esports Insider) < https://esportsinsider.com/2023/10/ ioc-olympic-esports-games>

Author

  • Stef van der Veldt

    Stef van der Veldt (26) is attorney at law at Vissers Legal, located in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, and specializes in (online) gaming/gambling and sports law. In this capacity he represents multiple (international) gambling operators active on the Dutch market. In 2021 the Dutch legislator legalized the online gambling market, subject to strict licensing conditions. On a daily basis he liaises with current and aspiring licensees and assists them on a wide array of topics. During his academic studies at Tilburg University (LLB Global Law, LLM International Business Law and LLM Dutch Company Law) he developed an affinity for sports law and the sports industry. As a team player of the sports law department of Vissers Legal he works closely together with multiple stakeholders in the professional sports industry, including athletes, organizations, marketeers etc. The esports industry has caught his particular interest due to the fact that the industry is developing very rapidly, requiring all stakeholders to be versatile and attentive.

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