Major games: let sport triumph, not corruption

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Major sporting events are supposed to be celebrations of excellence and should be a cause for national pride. But it’s corruption that’s stealing the headlines.

Setting aside the issues of security, as the 2014 winter Olympics start in Sochi this week, it is high costs, lack of transparency and – as a result of this – allegations of corruption that are making the news, not sport.

In Brazil recently, thousands took to the streets again to protest the cost of the 2014 World Cup, which starts there in June. Brazilians want the money to be spent on education and health, not football stadiums.

Accounting for Sochi

Sochi cost an estimated US$51 billion, seven times more than the last Winter Olympics in Canada, US$37 billion more than London 2012 and US$8 billion more than Beijing 2008.

The original Sochi budget was US$12 billion. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) costs for building the sport infrastructure is US$2.2 billion, according to the IOC, in line with previous Olympic Games. It was the non-sport infrastructure costs – such as roads and hotels – that ballooned.

Transparency International Russia is monitoring the information that's publically available about the Sochi games. It has noted many instances of alleged corruption in a short report, Olympic-sized corruption, including overspends and alleged criminal activity.

When Transparency International Russia graded Olympstroy, the company formed in Russia to deliver the games, on its transparency and anti-corruption safeguards, it scored 12 out of a possible 17 points. However, it does not have a code of ethics and does not disclose reports of its subsidiaries or substantial information on procurements.

Although several people have been suspended from Olympstroy no case has come to court. The Russian government is set to release an audit report in the spring about Sochi and Transparency International Russia will analyse and comment on this report too.

One IOC official alleged that corruption counted for one-third of the overspend for Sochi, while other reports detail alleged corruption and conflicts of interests.

Who is responsible?

Major events are owned by organisations, such as the IOC, the Commonwealth Games Federation and FIFA, football’s world governing body. These organisations need to find cities and countries willing to provide the facilities, from stadiums to housing, to hold the events.

When a city makes a bid for an event it describes how it will deliver the project, including all the necessary building work and logistics from stadiums and athletes’ housing to transport.

The protests in Brazil and the price tag of Sochi have prompted the IOC and FIFA to announce a review of how they pick a host city or country, and what criteria the bidders need to fulfil to deliver the event. This is welcome news.

New standards

TV footage of collapsed bridge
Bridge collapse, Commonwealth Games 2010, New Delhi.

Transparency International will contribute to this review with criteria based on the principles of transparency and stakeholder participation.

We want civil society and ordinary people to have a voice in the process and we want there to be adequate anti-corruption safeguards in place to stop corruption in all phases of the process.

The money for staging an event comes from taxpayers; any negative impact also affects local populations.

Our concerns include:

Transparency International will publish its proposed criteria for a public consultation. We would urge the IOC and FIFA to do the same to ensure systematic stakeholder involvement when reviewing the bidding and hosting criteria. The criteria should also take into account new guidelines for hospitality and sponsorship published by the United Nation Global Compact.

Three ways to improve major events

  • Greater stakeholder involvement
    Civil society, both international and national organisations, and citizens must have a greater say in how major events are awarded and delivered from beginning to end.
  • Beefing up criteria for bidding and awarding
    Bidding criteria should include minimum standards for fundamental rights, including human rights, worker rights, and environmental safeguards. Bidders should also commit to ethical standards.
  • Delivering the games
    More needs to be done to make bidders stick to the promises in their original bids.
Country / Territory - International   
Region - Global   
Language(s) - English   
Topic - Accountability   |   Civil society   |   Human rights   |   Land management   |   Politics and government   |   Public procurement   |   Sport   |   Transparency International   

Press contact(s):

Deborah Wise Unger
Tel: +44 20 8960 2526
Mobile: +44 74321 666 22

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