Mega-sporting event lifecycle
Human rights are relevant throughout the lifecycle of a mega-sporting event. Key practices should be embedded at each phase to minimise risks and maximise opportunities for positive impacts.
Lifecycle Phase 1: Vision, Concept and Legacy
Mega-sporting events are an unprecedented opportunity to promote both sporting values and human rights. Sport has a unique power to bring people together and offers opportunities to further many of sport’s core values such as fair play, solidarity among nations, teamwork and healthy living. Sporting events provide inherent potential to advance human rights, through job creation, employability, new social housing, urban regeneration, and new leisure facilities and public spaces. An event’s legacy can deliver lasting impacts to the host community, improve infrastructure, promote sports participation and healthy lifestyles and advance a host’s image in the world.
Yet, with very few exceptions, these events have also been associated with violations of human rights. To strengthen the legitimacy of an event, it is crucial that human rights are integrated into the long-term vision and planning. Hosts should consider what human rights risks they are likely to encounter throughout the process of designing their candidature and in staging an event, and how the lives of local communities can be enhanced. The event should wherever possible leave a lasting, positive legacy and raise the standard for future events, while promoting international human rights.
A successful mega-sporting event requires many parties to work together towards a shared vision. Long after an event is completed, its legacy can impact upon a range of stakeholders including the host nation, its workers, athletes and local communities. To succeed in delivering positive outcomes such as bringing vital infrastructure to a community, regenerating urban areas, or encouraging youth to be more active in sport, it is increasingly well understood that local communities and other relevant stakeholders should be involved in shaping the vision for the event from the outset.
Relevant stakeholders ought to be at the centre of any event concept. In mapping its human rights risks, both sports governing bodies and host actors (the government and bid committee) should consider how human rights could be adversely impacted, to what extent, and what can be done to prevent these impacts. Affected stakeholders should be provided with a clear understanding of how the event may impact them, have a chance to input into the process and know where and how they can go to access remedy if required.
Hosting an event that respects human rights, including the rights of workers and athletes, and seeks to benefit local residents can provide a great example of sport’s inherent capacity to advance human rights. When not managed properly however, human rights abuses can arise in the context of hosting an event such as forced evictions, construction deaths, migrant worker exploitation, sweatshop labour, restrictions on protesters, street vendors, street children and homeless people, and discrimination on and off the field.
Many countries and cities vie for the privilege and prestige of hosting events, and society expects the very best practice from those responsible for the planning and delivery.
Those wishing to host a mega-sporting event should make human rights, including worker rights - in particular those set out in the UN’s International Bill of Rights and the ILO’s eight core conventions, and referenced in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights - a central part of their bid and event plan. Any candidature or bid file should include details on which human rights risks are most serious and pressing in the potential host context, and what measures are in place to mitigate these risks. In addition, potential hosts should identify which stakeholders are most likely to be impacted, and engage with these groups to mitigate the risk.
Staging a mega-sporting event is a complex task that requires alignment of national governments, state, municipal and local authorities, sports governing bodies, international federations and national sports bodies, the private sector, workers representatives and civil society. To ensure human rights are respected and upheld, the roles and responsibilities of each party should be well defined and communicated, and areas of overlapping responsibility clearly mapped and understood. Delivering a successful event offers opportunities for partnerships and collaboration that have the potential to outlive the event, and leave a positive benefit on local business practice and the host society.
Responsibility across the range of host actors for managing a mega-sporting event, including any human rights impacts, should be made as clear as possible. This includes outlining which entity is responsible for which aspects of the event, how communication between the different entities takes place, and any hierarchical structures (for example, whether the local organising committee is expected to report to the national government, the sports governing body, or both). Such clarity and transparency is also critical to affected people or groups who need to know where to turn to raise any grievances they may have.
Children have the potential to benefit significantly from the positive legacies of mega-sporting events. These events can offer children the chance for self expression and self development, to be part of a cultural moment, and can generate new job and skills development opportunities with lasting benefits for young people. Specific opportunities for children should be explored, including the chance for young people to play a part in the event through well supervised volunteering, to learn and develop new skills, to get involved in sport and healthy activities and to benefit from regenerated, safer urban areas.
Thought should be given to the timing of the event to minimise any disruption to schooling, as well as to avoiding any risk of exposing young people to violence, exploitation or conditions harmful to a child’s health, or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development during the preparations for or staging of the event.
Priority should also be given to safeguarding young fans and athletes. 11 Children should be part of wider stakeholder consultation processes (with special provisions in place to enable their meaningful participation) during the bid phase and their voices heard. Child rights standards like the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and relevant principles should be included within wider human rights due diligence process. Host actors and sports governing bodies must have a zero tolerance policy relating to child abuse that occurs in the lead up, during or after the event.
Host communities can benefit greatly from well-managed mega-sporting events through new infrastructure, housing and facilities. However, in the past many of the negative impacts associated with major events have most acutely affected the most vulnerable members of society. As well as children, the needs of women, elderly people, disabled persons, indigenous peoples, disadvantaged communities such as minorities, migrants and homeless people need to be fully taken into account. Consideration should be given to the rights and needs of vulnerable groups and minorities when planning a mega-sporting event as part of due diligence processes.
Potentially affected groups, including those that are most vulnerable or who have been historically disadvantaged, should be formally consulted on an ongoing basis, their views heard and their rights and needs considered in risk assessments and mitigation plans during the bid phase. Mega-sporting events can serve to bring about new opportunities for minorities and vulnerable people and these should be well thought through at the concept stage. These events can help to promote diversity and inclusion, stimulate new channels for community cohesion within host cities and nations, and provide means by which to integrate or formally recognise historically marginalised members of society.
Lifecycle Phase 2: Bidding, Planning and Design
Mega-sporting events showcase the best in humanity and must be premised on trust and integrity. Mega-sporting events have long been seen as an avenue through which hosts can welcome the world and demonstrate economic and political strength. Yet with tremendous pressure to succeed and the large amounts of money being invested, the bidding process has in many contexts proven to be susceptible to corruption. Amidst conditions of corruption there are often incentives to cut corners or overlook wrongdoing and to dismiss the need to respect people’s human rights. These vulnerabilities can be minimised by increasing transparency and accountability in the bidding process, the bid criteria and decision-making processes, combined with systems that effectively identify, prevent and mitigate human rights violations once the event has been awarded.
The bidding process presents an opportunity for the bid committee to not only set the overall tone for the event it wishes to stage, but also to place respect for human rights at the core of its bid. It can also be an opportunity to fill any gaps within the proposed sustainability and human rights criteria for the event as prescribed by the relevant sports governing body. Potential host actors themselves have a vested interest in encouraging sports governing bodies to ensure the process through which events are awarded is fully transparent and that it represents global good practice. Among other things this means bidding criteria ought to be clearly defined and bid evaluations be available in the public domain.
The bid book or candidature file is a crucial component in the bidding process for an event. It is through bid books submitted by potential hosts that sports governing bodies evaluate and select a host city or country for an upcoming event. Delivering on what was promised can, however, sometimes be more difficult than envisioned.
To solidify the host actors’ bid commitments and ensure promises are kept, there is a growing expectation that the newly formed organising committee ought to make an explicit public commitment to safeguard internationally recognised human rights as soon as the event is awarded.
Further, the host actors should recognise their responsibility to identify gaps between international standards and national laws, and seek to incorporate plans to address these gaps in their bid submission. Particular attention should be paid to risks to the most vulnerable members of society, including migrant workers and children. The bid should thus also include written guarantees from the host government and wider bid committee that once the event is awarded the government, organising committee and delivery authority will protect and respect human rights and worker rights.
The lifecycle of a mega-sporting event is typically between 8-10 years from conception to delivery. By engaging stakeholders from the outset, developing robust human rights due diligence processes, and ensuring access to effective remedies are in place, host actors can avoid major human rights abuses, including forced evictions, exploitation of workers, and limitations on freedom of expression, among others.
As part of the planning and design of a mega-sporting event, host actors should ensure stakeholders are formally engaged in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, and a host’s commitments to the respective sports governing body.
This means that relevant stakeholder groups should be consulted in the planning of an event, the event delivery, as well as in the design and implementation of any grievance mechanism to ensure it is legitimate and accessible to all, especially vulnerable groups, as well as any plans for legacy projects. This consultation process should be transparent and open to all. Efforts should be made to open channels of communication with local communities to keep them informed and involved in a meaningful way about plans for the event, and notify them well in advance of any potential impacts.
Mega-sporting events usually require significant construction of new and temporary venues, and new or regenerated infrastructure. This can range from new stadiums and athlete housing, to new or improved transit systems within the host city or country, and the development of large numbers of hotels and leisure facilities. Pulling this all together requires a shared responsibility across different levels of government, the delivery bodies, the organising committee and commercial partners.
In the past, exploitation of workers, especially migrant worker health and safety breaches, and the displacement of communities have been common during preparations for major events.
Some of these abuses have arisen because the roles and responsibilities for the different parts of the project were unclear and labour standards were inconsistently applied or inadequately enforced. The stadiums and event facilities and infrastructure and transit systems which connect them to transport hubs and city centres are inseparable. To avoid confusion, bid committees ought to put guarantees in place that the same labour rights standards and human rights due diligence processes will apply consistently across all supporting infrastructure, and not only to those under the remit of the organising committee.
Local organising committees can minimise the human rights related risks linked with a mega-sporting event by engaging all relevant government departments, principal contractors and suppliers during the bid development stage. All key government, local authority and private sector partners should be alerted to the human rights commitments that will be part of the bid file, including the fact that common minimum workplace standards for contractors and subcontractors will be part of the bid submission. Parties should also be notified that policies will be reinforced through codes of conduct, and that any contractor, subcontractor or supplier wishing to work on the project will be expected to comply with standards that are consistent with the ILO’s eight core conventions and which include provisions on health and safety consistent with ILO standards.
Contractors and suppliers should also be expected to adhere to national labour regulations, or international standards where these are stronger. Host actors can support small or local contractors to meet these standards through pre-tendering capacity building on these standards. Host government and local authority officials involved in the bid development should seek to make guarantees that align national labour laws with internationally recognised standards on human rights where this is not already the case.
Mega-sporting events can be an effective catalyst in regenerating urban areas, developing new or improved social housing and attracting investment to local economies. However, events have the potential to negatively impact people if the planning and design is not executed properly. This can lead to forced evictions, the displacement of people, and rehousing disputes as has been seen in a wide variety of global contexts. Access to land and resources must be based on due process. Rehousing families and relocating small businesses to make way for events should be kept to a minimum. Those affected should be consulted in advance, given adequate compensation, and have access to immediate rehousing.
Host actors ought to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of local communities, particularly where indigenous communities are affected. Consideration should be given to people’s living standards to ensure that rehousing standards are equivalent to or better than the affected persons’ previous home. Wherever possible those affected should be kept as close as possible to their original homes, so that adults and children can still commute easily to their workplaces or schools, and can access medical and other essential services. Families should be kept together, as should established communities to the fullest extent possible. Specific additional requirements should apply to indigenous communities. Any grievance mechanisms available to impacted residents should be clearly communicated to the affected groups and be easily accessible.
Lifecycle Phase 3: Income Generation
Staging a mega-sporting event can bring multiple opportunities, including new jobs, additional tourism, improved infrastructure, urban renewal and increased participation in sport. Such events are global by nature and attract sponsors, suppliers and contractors both from within the host country and from around the world. To ensure that local economies participate in and benefit from staging an event, the bidding and planning stages should give due consideration to the local legacy of the event.
Bids should reinforce ongoing urban development projects, foster domestic skills development and employability, and wherever possible make use of local contractors and suppliers. Funding should be from a sustainable source and realistic, and not be overly reliant on local sponsorship deals or ticket and merchandise sales unless they are viable. The use of venues and supporting infrastructure post-event should be carefully considered and planned for, with temporary facilities deployed wherever the long-term demand for or upkeep costs of permanent facilities is in doubt or unsustainable. Relevant stakeholders should be consulted throughout the process.
Mega-sporting events have major commercial value, making them an attractive partnership proposition to a wide range of companies, brands and suppliers. Sponsorship for mega-sporting events happens at the global and local level. The most prestigious sporting events involve multiyear partnerships between the awarding sports governing body and a few global brands in return for multi-million dollar investments. The proceeds form these deals go into the staging of the event and towards the grassroots development of the sport or sporting movement globally. Independently, local organising committees typically sell various tiers of sponsorship and licensing deals that enable them to deliver their events and reduce their reliance on host government financial contributions and burden on taxpayers.
Both sports governing bodies and host actors ought to ensure that their sponsors are subject to due diligence before an event deal is concluded. Part of this process should also include taking steps to make sure that sponsors have a track record of conducting human rights due diligence of their own, including exercising their leverage, and remediating grievances. As sponsorships are generally awarded through bilateral negotiations as opposed to open tenders, the processes ought to be as transparent as possible.
The cultural value and shared experiences of following mega-sporting events through traditional and modern media happens on a global scale. Broadcasters pay handsomely for the privilege of sharing the events with audiences worldwide. Both sponsors and broadcasters have a vested interest in safeguarding the high moral value audiences have come to associate with these events and ensuring legitimate, rights respecting and responsible events. While sports 18 governing bodies and host actors have the greatest degree of control over an event, sponsors and broadcasters also have a strong degree of leverage in ensuring that events are delivered responsibly.
Host actors and sports governing bodies also have control over what is broadcast and should take care to ensure that the broadcast is not censored and that broadcasters respect rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Host actors should seek to work with broadcasters who conduct their own human rights due diligence on these issues and with whom they share common values.
Sponsors are faced with a number of potential human rights risks in the context of their sponsoring role in a mega-sporting event. These can include human and labour rights risks in their own supply and value chains which may come under heightened scrutiny, risks associated with marketing to children, as well as links by association to human rights abuses linked in some way with the host government of the event. In a number of contexts sponsors have faced criticism because of apparent restraints upon the trade of small local vendors that can sometimes arise when event organisers impose commercial exclusion zones to protect exclusive sponsors from ambush marketing by global rivals.
To prevent adverse impacts on people, host actors should require all sponsors to identify the human rights risks that may arise during their sponsorship, and in doing so, work with sponsors to identify ways to address possible areas of concern. This should ideally be done as part of the negotiation phase to allow both parties to communicate their human rights commitments, standards and expectations before entering into agreements, and so that they can explore ways of preventing and mitigating any adverse human rights impacts either within the host context or elsewhere.
Broadcasters are faced with numerous and diverse human rights challenges when broadcasting a mega-sporting event, particularly when these events take place live. These challenges include playing a responsible role in ensuring the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press, taking steps to promote non-discrimination, respecting the right to privacy, avoiding self censorship, and protecting the labour rights of production teams. Broadcasters and other news outlets should also give consideration to the extent to which high-profile athletes can face intense media scrutiny and demands, such that their performance and mental wellbeing can suffer. To add to the complexity of managing these challenges, there are different broadcasting models, which range from having complete editorial control over a live event feed, to broadcasting a feed from another network.
To support broadcasters in addressing the unique challenges of broadcasting a mega-sporting event, host actors should require all broadcasters to identify the human rights risks they may be faced with, and act as a central body through which broadcasters can ensure the feed they receive is not censored. All coverage should be free to tell the wider story of the host country, should in no circumstances be seen to legitimate authoritarian regimes, and should take measures to avoid the broadcast offensive content such as racial chanting.
Lifecycle Phase 4: Sustainable Sourcing
Human rights and labour abuses are common in complex global supply chains for sporting goods, merchandise, uniforms, medals and beyond. Goods and services like clothing, electronics, food, and construction materials are often sourced from suppliers and subcontractors in the lowest-cost countries where abuses in production processes may include forced labour, illegal child labour, serious health and safety breaches, low or unpaid wages, discrimination, union intimidation and the denial of freedom of association and collective bargaining. These supply chains can involve several hundred primary relationships and several thousand suppliers beneath the initial tier, spanning a diverse range of industries.
Human rights safeguards should be built into the tender and procurement processes of the host actor from the outset and embedded in contracts at all levels, requiring suppliers to demonstrate their ability to respect human rights before winning business. A Procurement Policy and/or Sourcing Code should require adherence to globally accepted human rights and labour rights standards, aligned at a minimum with the ILO’s eight core conventions. All primary suppliers should be required to undertake human rights due diligence and encourage their suppliers to do likewise.
There has been significant progress amongst host governments and local organising committees in establishing policies that outline expectations around human rights and in requiring the same standards from their contractors and suppliers. Encouraging this action from the top is essential, and mega-sporting events have a unique opportunity to influence the wider business community to adopt rights-respecting practices. Ensuring that these policies are put into practice is therefore something that needs to be proactively monitored.
Host actors should educate suppliers on human rights to raise awareness and build their capacity, including supporting them to work with their own suppliers on respecting human and labour rights in their operations.
This engagement should include mapping their principle supply chains, publishing the names and locations of suppliers, and partnering with human rights and supply chain specialists to support the implementation of responsible sourcing standards and facilitate supply chain monitoring where needed. Host actors should require suppliers to disclose material issues such as whether they have been subject to court rulings or other sanctions over health and safety breaches or labour rights abuses. Where suppliers are seen not to be complying with the relevant standards, corrective action measures should be discussed and taken.
Supply chains are increasingly more complex, with vast networks of suppliers and many tiers of subcontracting. This can create a lack of visibility that increases the risk of abuses occurring. For all actors, transparency is vital to ensuring greater visibility of risks, and to finding ways to address potential and actual harms.
Going hand in hand with human rights due diligence, transparency in supply chains helps companies to manage risk, build supply chain resilience, and meet increasing reporting obligations. This means suppliers should be required to disclose lists of their own suppliers and manufacturing locations to facilitate accountability. Building transparency into the procurement process is an important part of achieving a rights-compliant games.
No matter how comprehensive the policies in place, there is always the risk that breaches and human rights abuses occur within supply chains. What channels those affected have to address their grievances is often unclear or obscured, particularly for contract workers, migrant labour and other vulnerable groups. To provide access to remedy for affected groups in the supply chain, an effective complaint and dispute resolution mechanism should be established applying the codes and standards put in place by the local organising committee. Ensuring meaningful processes exist is also an important component of a local organising committee’s stakeholder engagement and a means of building supply chain knowledge and the trust of stakeholders.
The grievance mechanism should apply to all commercial partners, suppliers and subcontractors and be responsive, in a timely manner, to investigating serious claims by affected groups, the media, civil society, and human rights defenders of adverse human rights impacts in the supply chain. The existence of complaint and dispute resolution processes must communicated thoroughly, including to individual manufacturers and most importantly to workers themselves in a language they can understand, so that those most affected know how to access the system. The mechanism itself must be effective, such that, in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles, it is legitimate, accessible, predictable, equitable, transparent, rights-compatible, a source of continuous learning and based on engagement and dialogue.
Where effective remedy is not available under existing processes (such as labour tribunals or the courts), then the grievance mechanism must provide for mediation and where necessary arbitration. Support should be available to assist affected groups’ access to the grievance mechanism where they do not have sufficient financial or organisational means.
Lifecycle Phase 5: Construction
Mega-sporting events inevitably lead to a boom in construction. The construction of sporting venues, event facilities and supporting infrastructure projects demand a significant volume of low-wage work, within a time-bound project lifecycle. In many parts of the world construction jobs are performed by migrant workers, who can be especially vulnerable to exploitation during their recruitment, in the levels and timeliness of their pay, and their working and living conditions. Addressing the human rights issues facing migrant workers can be complex and international in scope.
At a minimum, mega-sporting event hosts should have specific policies and systems in place to address worker needs. These should seek to minimise the risk of exploitation by recruitment and employment agencies, combat human trafficking, harassment or sexual exploitation, provide adequate orientation, ensure workers have full access to their identity documents, are able to access remediation, and meet international standards for safe working and living conditions. This includes protecting the rights of all workers (both directly and indirectly employed) equally during all phases of construction, right up to the dismantling of facilities.
These include rights to a decent wage, working time, overtime compensation, holidays, health and safety and other benefits. Policies and systems should also take account of the needs of and impacts on local communities which may absorb large numbers of migrant labourers over the project lifecycle. Government agencies should step in to protect the rights of local communities and migrant workers so that both groups have access to housing, medical provision and other essential services.
A construction boom can be an opportunity for local businesses, suppliers and workers, but the high volume of work and compressed timelines can also result in the enforcement of labour standards being compromised. Mega-sporting events may be awarded to countries where current labour laws and mechanisms are either inadequate or not well enforced, leaving the rights of construction workers, particularly migrant workers, especially vulnerable. Where workers cannot fully rely on existing national laws and labour inspection systems, or where particular market practices lead to rights abuses, it becomes especially critical that trade unions are able to participate in joint site inspections together with games-awarding bodies and local organising committees.
Joint inspections can facilitate dialogue among all the key stakeholders, including workers, and can among other things help host actors identify workplace issues that might have otherwise gone overlooked. They also serve to promote worker rights, especially on occupational safety and health and broader working conditions. The participation of both national and international trade unions can also be a critical factor in enabling workers to mobilise in pursuit of their own protection and welfare. Involving workers and their representatives also helps foster partnerships and solidarity with national and global civil society.
As with all major construction or infrastructure projects, building for mega-sporting events comes with risks to worker safety. Accidents, injuries and deaths caused during the construction of mega-sporting event venues, related facilities and supporting infrastructure are entirely preventable, but multiple fatalities and injuries have nevertheless occurred during these phases at many recent events around the world.
Best practice in occupational health and safety and zero tolerance for fatalities should be a basic requirement for all contractors and subcontractors.
Workers should never be required to work in excessive temperatures, humidity or direct sunlight. Fully independent and transparent investigations and reporting processes should also be put in place for any workplace accidents and injuries. Host actors should insist on the cause of workplace deaths being fully investigated using medical and forensic examinations, and regularly make public the data on fatalities and accidents. Transparency in publishing comprehensive data of this kind can facilitate research into death and injury rates and enable improvements to health policy, occupational health and safety standards, and emergency response plans.
The construction of mega-sporting event facilities and supporting infrastructure requires a large and flexible workforce. On-site, construction-related grievances should be within the scope of any grievance process established, with specific considerations given to the nature of construction-related grievances, which may require distinct processes from the complaints and remedy procedures established for workers in supply chains.
All workers on site and at all levels of subcontracting, should have access to a trusted, legitimate and independent process to raise grievances relating to matters concerning health and safety and wider working and living conditions. Having such processes in place can provide organisers with an additional means of identifying and remediating risks and can inform ongoing human rights due diligence processes by unearthing issues that might otherwise have been overlooked. Receiving large numbers of complaints should not necessarily be viewed as a failure, but instead can indicate that the complaint mechanism is trusted and is seen as legitimate by those using it.
While contractors may demonstrate an ability to meet human rights standards in their tenders for contracts on events, many successful contractors may fall below basic minimum standards in practice. Their compliance should therefore be continually monitored. Such monitoring should be an ongoing consultative process and designed to build the capacity of contractors and subcontractors in their efforts to respect the human rights of workers.
A periodic auditing process is unlikely to be sufficient or comprehensive enough to discover and remedy breaches. Instead, labour monitoring and risk-based due diligence should be continuous and focussed on the highest risk contractors and subcontractors. Such a process should be integrated within the tendering processes to award contracts, and sit alongside the complaints and grievance mechanism and should help identify issues for further investigation. Specific skills development around human rights due diligence may be especially helpful in supporting small or local contractors to be compliant.
Lifecycle Phase 6: Delivery and Operations
All spectators, athletes, workers and volunteers at mega-sporting events have the right to enjoy their participation in safety and security. Security is a crucial element of any major event, and with increased need for anti-terror measures, is non-negotiable. Security procedures require intensive risk planning and cooperation between multiple parties. Nevertheless, with the need for effective policing, surveillance, and crowd control comes human rights risks. In the past, risks have ranged from harassment and discrimination, to arbitrary detention and repression of peaceful protestors, or indiscriminate or unaccountable community policing. The need for extra security measures can risk exacerbating prevailing conflicts or related concerns in host cities and countries.
Host actors should conduct a human rights risk assessment related to security and policing as part of developing an effective plan to prevent abuses. This assessment should consider any historical patterns around human rights violations, analyse the efficacy of existing legal frameworks, outline accountability mechanisms and develop human rights-related training protocols. Affected stakeholders should be consulted throughout the process. All policing and security operations should be in line with international principles and standards, most notably the UN’s Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, the UN’s Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, and the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers.
The scale and prestige of mega-sporting events attracts journalists from all over the world to share the inspiring stories these events often produce. While many journalists cover the sporting feats of athletes, others use events as an opportunity to raise awareness about human rights issues in the host country. In some contexts, journalists have experienced restrictions on press freedom and struggled with free access to the information needed to file their reports. In the worst cases, journalists have been arbitrarily detained.
NNeither host governments nor organising committees should attempt to censor media reporting and the rights of journalists, and rights to information and freedom of expression should be protected. Journalists should be allowed to report stories in and about the host nation without fear of reprisal. They should further feel safe in their working environments, and should not be threatened for doing their job. Journalists whose rights are infringed must have access to effective remedy. Local organising committees may need to consult with, or seek guidance from, the event awarding sports governing body where they have concerns about safeguarding press freedom.
Sport has made historic contributions to promoting human rights and combating discrimination. Sports events inevitably have a political dimension and with the spotlight of world attention, protests have become a recurring feature at many mega-sporting events around the world. Protests have taken the form of campaigns against some negative aspect of the event itself or the policies or practices of its host, or as a means to advance a specific cause. The rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are fundamental human rights, yet protests during major events can often be met with excessive use of force by police or security forces. In the worst cases, restraints on the right to protest can escalate to the use of tear gas and rubber bullets, as well as arbitrary detention.
Peaceful protests need not be viewed as a threat to sports events and can instead provide a means for the voices of affected groups to be heard and may in turn facilitate constructive dialogue. Some host actors have setup specific zones to accommodate peaceful protest with this in mind. Host actors should respect the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, whatever the reason for the protest. Organising committees should consult with the sports governing body to explore how peaceful protest can be accommodated if there is opposition from the host government, and to explore how athletes’ right to peaceful protest can be accommodated.
Mega-sporting events are vast commercial operations. Large numbers of workers and volunteers are employed and operate in and around a mega-sporting event, including in selling merchandise, policing the event, ticketing, staffing food kiosks, providing public information and more. With such a diverse workforce, and with many brought in exclusively for the event, host actors can leave themselves exposed to human rights risks if they do not effectively screen and train these workers on how to ensure a harm-free environment whatever their role.
Host actors, in particular local organising committees, should ensure that all workers, including volunteers, are aware of the risks to human rights their job might entail and how to effectively minimise them. Risks can include issues such as excessive use of force or sexually inappropriate searches by security providers, through to various kinds of discrimination or offensive conduct by venue operators. Workers and volunteers should themselves be made aware of how they can raise concerns if they see a colleague or member of the public act in a way that they feel may be causing harm to another member of staff, volunteer, child or other person.
Human trafficking and modern slavery risks are not unique to mega-sporting events; however, the need for large-scale construction and infrastructure projects, and frequent use of temporary and migrant workers to fill the jobs in those sectors can exacerbate the risk. Human trafficking and forced labour are not limited to the construction sector, and can affect workers in food production and supply and wider supply chains, as well as hospitality workers brought in to service hotels and sporting venues. The large influx of spectators attending sports events also presents a risk of increasing the possibility of criminal acts such as sex and child trafficking.
Host governments in particular should ensure that the regulatory environment is conducive to tackling these issues and develop mechanisms that encourage compliance with international labour standards. All host actors should conduct thorough due diligence from the bidding phase to identify the potential for trafficking or forced labour, and should put in place contractual clauses with suppliers, contractors and other commercial partners to combat this particular challenge, especially for industries assessed as being high-risk. There may also be a need to vet contractors used to build stadiums, agencies supplying hospitality workers, companies providing food and beverage products and event merchandise and others deemed to be high-risk.
Where the companies are in breach of their contracts or otherwise implicated in wrongdoing in relation to trafficking or forced labour, they should take prompt corrective action, with the host government applying leverage to ensure remediation..
Lifecycle Phase 7: Competition
Mega-sporting events are inseparable from the athletes who compete in them. Yet athletes themselves can face human rights challenges. These include discrimination or harassment of various forms including from abusive fans, and invasions of the right to privacy arising from sometimes irresponsible media intrusion, such as disclosures of private medical data. Athletes’ physical and mental health can be at risk from excessive training, risks of doping or impacts of social media trolling. The risks are heightened for child athletes. Athletes commonly face restrictions on their freedom of association and right to collective bargaining. This is sometimes due to a lack of clarity about the law and how to enforce it and fears of reprisal from clubs, leagues and competition organisers. Some sports bodies, in an attempt to depoliticise mega-sporting events, have also placed restraints on athletes right to peaceful protest.
Host actors should respect the human rights of athletes throughout the course of the event lifecycle, and include athletes’ rights within their human rights due diligence process. Athletes and their representative bodies should be included as part of ongoing stakeholder engagement efforts. Host actors should embrace social dialogue and the right to collective action as it relates to competing athletes. Host actors should also encourage sports governing bodies and international federations to respect the human rights of athletes in their decision-making processes. Where athletes are victims of human rights abuses they should have access to effective remedy and should not be penalised for seeking redress.
Athletes have a vested interest in sport being played fairly. The integrity of sport is compromised when anti-doping measures fail to protect clean sportspeople, and when athletes’ rights are not adequately protected from unscrupulous third parties, such as those involved in match fixing. In the worst cases, some sportspeople have been victims of human trafficking and faced conditions akin to slavery during the recruitment of new talent or when lured by some nations to switch their national allegiance from their country of origin. In these cases athletes may suffer from delayed payment of wages, have their freedom of movement restricted, and their contracts unjustly terminated.
These scenarios can also make athletes more susceptible to other forms of dishonest practice.
Host actors should work with sports governing bodies and visiting teams to make their expectations clear with regard to anti-doping and integrity measures. Athletes should know what to expect from the monitoring systems in place and should have confidence that they are playing a fair game. Host actors should be transparent in their management of sports integrity issues and disclose issues of non-compliance and proposed resolutions.
Many athletes, even within adult competitions, are under eighteen years of age. Participation in major events can be a defining moment in a young person or child’s life, and a tremendous opportunity. However, many of the risks other athletes face can have particularly damaging effects on child athletes, including increased risk of exploitation, harassment, bullying and abuse (including sexual), overtraining, doping and undue pressure to perform from coaches, parents and traditional or social media. Despite numerous accounts of child abuse and mental health risks linked with mega-sporting events, these issues are often overlooked.
Host actors should work with sports governing bodies to pay particular attention to children’s rights, including child athletes, throughout the event lifecycle. The voices of children should be included within stakeholder consultation processes and children’s rights should be part of risk assessments and mitigation plans. Host actors should put child safeguarding systems in place to protect young athletes (and young spectators), paying attention not only to safety considerations but also to issues like protection from violence and abuse and mental health. There may be a need for outreach to host welfare agencies, and for host actors to work with visiting teams to better manage young athletes’ welfare and wellbeing.
Lifecycle Phase 8: Legacy
To maximise the positive human rights potential of mega-sporting events, the vision for the long-term use of facilities and infrastructure and community benefits of staging these events needs to be properly planned from the bid concept phase and realised across the event lifecycle. This means sustainable plans for the operation and maintenance of permanent venues after the event concludes should be put in place as early as possible. Legacy uses of permanent and temporary venues and facilities should be factored into the concept and bid stage, with the post-event use and maintenance agreed in advance with sporting clubs, national federations or other event management organisations, such as those involved in staging cultural and community events.
Host actors should ensure that strategic planners from the government and local authorities are actively involved in the venue legacy development process, and that preparations for and delivery of the event are fully integrated with existing urban regeneration and social planning. Venues and facilities should continue to be used for the benefit of all, particularly with a view to encouraging access from young people and marginalised groups. Temporary venues should be dismantled and where possible reassembled to provide for community sporting facilities.
Mega-sporting events themselves often only last a matter of days or weeks at the culmination of several years of planning. During this time, governments, local authorities and organising committees often invest in campaigns to inspire renewed sports participation among the host population and internationally. Yet, while mega-sporting events often prompt a bounce in sports participation and healthy activity immediately after the event, in many cases this proves to be short lived and numbers drop off over time, often falling back to pre-event levels. Para-sport has sometimes been one of the greatest beneficiaries, but post-event spikes in participation levels of para-athletes are also not always sustained. More generally, efforts to capitalise on mega-sporting events as platforms for national campaigns to encourage healthy living and combat obesity are often not well thought through.
Host actors should engage with relevant government departments including those responsible for health policy, sport and culture to maximise the potential of mega-sporting events to leave a positive mark on host communities. Opportunities also exist to harness mega-sporting events to combat social challenges such as domestic violence, sectarianism, child marriage and substance addiction. The positive impacts of skills training and employability, good practice with regard to security, diversity, safeguarding and participation should also be embedded by various actors and used in the long-term. Progress made on workers rights, anti-trafficking and press freedom, amongst others, should also be proactively pursued by legacy organisations over the years that follow a major event.
Host governments, local authorities and organising committees deliver on a monumental scale during their short, but intense event-related operations. However, budgetary constraints usually mean that organising committees and event-related teams tend to be disbanded very quickly after the event is over. It is essential that the lessons and learning from hosting an event, particularly with regard to human rights which is a relatively new area in the world sport, are captured and transferred between hosts and between sporting traditions, and that good practice is disseminated.
Existing event knowledge management transfer platforms for mega-sporting events include some human rights-related elements with specific areas, such as security management.
However, in many cases these platforms have yet to fully embrace the opportunity for legacy learning on human rights and sustainability matters. Web platforms have been used by some previous host actors to capture key lessons and to enable the dissemination of good practice so it can be replicated or built upon by future hosts and event organisers, both by sport or wider event management teams. Host actors should be sure to set up web archives to handover policies, codes of conduct, systems and structures, and facilitate a transparent follow-up process of assessment and reporting. Host actors should also work with sports governing bodies, host government departments and academic institutions among others to ensure learning opportunities are fully maximised.