GENEVA — The IOC on Friday approved its human rights strategy, completing a years-long process, months after the Beijing Olympics looked at how sport engages with the record of a host country on discrimination and civil liberties.
The 50-page Olympic document guided by UN principles was also released a week after outgoing UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet released a report that China’s detention of ‘Uyghurs and other ethnic groups could be a crime against humanity.
The International Olympic Committee’s rights framework comes more than two years after it took up recommendations in a report co-authored by Bachelet’s predecessor, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein of Jordan.
“The framework will fundamentally shape the working practices of the IOC, the Olympics and the Olympic Movement, ensuring that human rights are respected in their respective roles,” the Olympic body said Friday after of a meeting of the board of directors.
These remit have generally limited the IOC’s ability or willingness to engage with host countries beyond specific sporting issues such as event organization and venue preparation.
Ahead of the Beijing Olympics – amid scrutiny of China’s treatment of its Uyghur people, the suppression of democratic rights in Hong Kong and the case of tennis player Peng Shuai – IOC President Thomas Bach , insisted that it was a sports body and not a “world government.”
Asked about Bachelet’s report on Friday, Bach said the IOC was working with sports officials in China to “ensure that all obligations of the host city contract are met.”
Bach also declined to speculate when asked what impact the rights strategy might have on the selection of hosts for the Olympics in 2034 or later. Sports officials in Saudi Arabia have said hosting the Olympics is an “ultimate goal” for the kingdom.
“Which countries are we talking about? What will be the conditions in those countries by then?” Bach replied. “It’s just speculation, so we can’t get into that.”
The IOC has a calmer decade ahead with Olympic hosts chosen in France, Italy, the United States and Australia after the relatively turbulent run-in of the Beijing Winter Games.
Beyond host country policy, the IOC’s commitment to human rights also aims to ensure safe and inclusive sport, including for transgender athletes, and to improve athlete representation.
Athlete activist groups have long suggested that the IOC consults too closely in favoring athletes endorsed by official Olympic stakeholders over more independent voices.