February 28, 2017 / 11:17 AM / in 8 months

Olympics: Rights groups praise IOC's revised Games contract

BERLIN (Reuters) - A new contract for future Olympic Games hosts that makes the protection of human rights a core requirement earned praise from rights groups on Tuesday who say preparations of major sports events lead to rights violations.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach casts a shadow during a news conference after an Executive Board meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, December 8, 2016. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

The International Olympic Committee has now made a specific reference to the protection of human rights in its revised host city contract, sent out to the 2024 summer Olympic bid cities, after meeting human rights groups.

Paris and Los Angeles are the only two candidates left in the race, with the IOC to elect the winner in September.

“Time after time, Olympic hosts have gotten away with abusing workers building stadiums, and with crushing critics and media who try to report about abuses,” Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said.

“The right to host the Olympics needs to come with the responsibility not to abuse basic human rights.”

With the cost, disruption and domestic politics deterring some Western cities from even bidding, as well as a desire by sports bosses to leverage interest in developing countries, the focus on rights is only likely to become more intense.

“The organization of the Olympic Games should always promote and enhance the fundamental values of Olympism,” said IOC President Thomas Bach in a statement. “This latest step is another reflection of the IOC’s commitment to embedding these values in all aspects of the Olympic Games.”

“We worked closely with SRA (Sport and Rights Alliance of NGOs) and we welcome its input, which is now reflected in the new version of the host city contract”, Bach said.

The IOC move is aimed at cities dealing with any human rights or labor issues before they are elected as hosts.

A Russian city and Qatar’s Doha are seen as potential early candidates for the 2028 Summer Games. Both countries have been accused of human rights violations for the Sochi 2014 Winter Games and the 2022 soccer World Cup, respectively.

Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, which is part of SRA along with HRW, said the IOC move “should be applied to all such events”.

Preparations for the Beijing 2008 Olympics saw forced evictions to make way for venues while China’s human rights record remained a topic throughout the seven-year process to the start of the Games.

Contractors building projects for Sochi 2014, which cost $51 billion, were accused of abusing the rights of migrant workers, while the overall budget ballooned into the biggest in the history of the Games.

Qatar, hosts of the 2022 soccer World Cup, has been also accused of human and labor rights violations as thousands of foreign workers are brought in to build the stadiums.

The Gulf Arab kingdom denies exploiting workers and says it is implementing labor reforms.

Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Alison Williams

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