Thompson Rivers University

Whose Games are they anyway?

  Posted on: March 1, 2017

Dr. Ryan Gauthier

Dr. Ryan Gauthier's first book examines human rights abuses at the Olympic Games.

“The Olympic Games is unquestionably the largest and most important sporting event in the world. Yet who exactly is accountable for its successes and failures?”

This is the question at the heart of TRU Law Assistant Professor Ryan Gauthier’s new book, The International Olympic Committee, Law, and Accountability.

The book—Gauthier’s first—examines human rights abuses caused by the Games, for example the local government evicting thousands from favelas prior to the 2016 Rio Games.

The work expands on his PhD research on the governance of international sport organizations.

In his latest work, Dr. Gauthier looks at the legitimacy of the Games from structural, substantive and procedural standpoints.

“The selection process needs to be more transparent. There is no public participation, no external review. The IOC has made some reforms, but my concern is that the masses in the bid cities are not consulted,” Gauthier explained.

He says referendums could be an answer, but for the sport organizations, they are a slippery slope.

“The issue with referendums is that it can demonstrate a lack of public support. The IOC would frown on that, and the city would lose the bid.”

“Whose Games are they anyway? One argument is that it is the really wealthy, connected individuals who put together the bid, but that the ordinary people pay the price.”

Gauthier says that as Western countries start to put more pressure on the IOC and demand transparency and equitable human rights, we will start to see a shift in bids.

“We will see a decrease in bids from Europe and North America, but an increase in bids from places like Russia, China, UAE, Kazakhstan—places where there is less democracy, where they don’t care as much about human rights or environmental damage. However, this does not fix the problem of human rights abuses when it comes to the Games.”

So what will the future of the Games look like? Are the Olympic Games as we know it dying?

“The Games will change. We will not see them in their current form. They will perhaps be smaller in scope and across multiple cities. It comes down to a question of why we want the Games. For the people, it is about bringing the world together and for the host city, it is a chance to be in the spotlight. Technology has already changed how we bring people together and share information, so that plays a factor, too.”

Gauthier is already busy working on his next book, which looks at the world of pro sports and how they are organized with respect to the salary cap and player restrictions like free agency.

He teaches employment law and human rights law and will be teaching sports law next year.