Host City Contract – Can and Should India Host the Olympics?

*Ashwath Kumar


To host the Olympics is one of the greatest achievements that a nation can have but in recent years, the number of countries bidding to be a host nation has seen a dramatic fall in numbers. As per reports by the International Olympic Committee (hereinafter mentioned as “IOC”), there had only been 2 cities, Paris and Los Angeles, bidding to host the 2024 Olympics whereas there were 12 cities bidding for the 2004 Olympics. The Olympic bidding process happens ten years prior to the actual year of the event, with the process involving two phases. The bidding process alone takes one to three years. For Tokyo, the bidding process took three years, it started in 2011 and only finished in 2013. Although, if the bidding process becomes more obtainable to other countries, it would greatly bolster international investments, foreign relations, tourism while promoting a culture of sports and the development of world-class infrastructure.

The Host City Contract

Every country has a vision of creating a memorable Olympic experience that not only their own citizens but also the rest of the world can carry for the years to come. The experiences of the athletes at the Olympic village, the ambience felt by the crowds at the stadium, as well as the sheer size of what would have to be translated onto television and other forms of media— Without a doubt, infrastructure plays a large role in an Olympic event’s success. This requires a large number of investments from the host country, which can greatly damage the general welfare of the region. In 1996, Atlanta spent $600 million to complement existing infrastructure in their bid to host the Games which pales to the cost of $1 billion that Greece paid in 2004[1].To get a better understanding of the current state of the Olympics in the eyes of its own foundation, it would be most appropriate that we examine the most recent Host City contract, which is the one between Japan (hereinafter mentioned as “NOC” and the International Olympic Committee(hereinafter mentioned as “IOC”). The Host City contract stipulates in the preamble that the IOC is the supreme authority and that the Olympic games are their exclusive property.

Some of the duties that have to be performed by the Host City for the proper functioning of the games are discussed below. The NOC is responsible for the construction of an Olympic Village to house all participating athletes, as well as officials and athletic trainers. As per Section 29, the Organising Committee should ensure that there is enough accommodation for 16000 people. All costs for the construction of the village have to be covered by the NOC and the accommodation provided to the athletes would be free of cost. Most countries plan on selling these apartments after the games to residents of the country to make up for the expenses but taking precedence from Brazil, it can be said that it is not a guarantee that these buildings will be inhabited. The NOC also has to provide free transport to the country, and also within the country for all athletes and staff members and must also construct special roads and pathways for public transport between venues and the Olympic Village.

Media Centres are also to be constructed within the vicinity of the Olympic Games for the broadcast of all events, starting from the Opening Ceremony to the Closing Ceremony. Section 24, which provides guidelines regarding health services and doping, specifically mentions that NOC shall be responsible for ensuring the implementation of all necessary and appropriate medical/health services. These services would be free of charge to accredited persons designated by the IOC, mainly the athletes.

As mentioned above these expenditures are to be borne by the NOC and these expenses often exceed the planned budget. According to Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) reports in 2018, every game hosted for the past 50 years has gone over budget, with the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics exceeding $41.04 billion from its initial budget of $10 billion. Host cities made huge profits by hosting the games, mainly due to the revenue generated from TV rights, but recently the IOC has been taking a larger percentage of the revenue, with IOC receiving 4% of total revenue in the '90s whereas they took 70% from the Rio Olympics. This large percentage that is taken by the IOC can also be seen as a factor that affects the number of applicants in the bidding process.

The Aftermath of the 2016 Rio Olympics

Considering that India and Brazil have similar socioeconomic conditions and that both nations are developing, it would be apt to see the outcome and impact that the Rio Olympics had on Brazil.

After the Rio Olympics had concluded, it was uncovered that there were large scale cases of corruption, funds that had been allocated for the development of the Olympic related facilities, had been misused. The $11.6 billion dollar facility currently stands unused, it has not hosted any major event since the 2016 Olympics and is in a state of disarray. Looters have stripped most of the stadiums bare of any valuable items and most stadiums and venues are in total disrepair, for e.g., the aquatic centre which was supposed to be demolished shortly after the Olympics, is still standing albeit in a state of disregard serving no purpose at all. The Olympic Village, an accommodation centre built to house all participating athletes, as well as officials and athletic trainers, which can house up to 17,950 people in a total of 3,604 apartments spread out across 31 buildings is currently uninhabited.

There were several instances of human displacement in the planning phase of the Olympics, causing disruption of marginalized communities in the name of beautification projects meant to attract foreign businesses, investment and to promote tourism. The Federal Constitution of 1988 recognizes housing as a fundamental right, and Brazil’s landmark 2001 City Statute codifies the social use of buildings and land as a public policy goal. Unfortunately, however, substantive, and procedural constitutional and human rights have been easily discarded to clear slums for athletic housing, hotels and other communication, transportation, and sporting infrastructure[2]. Due to the rise in surrounding infrastructure, it caused a surge in house prices in neighbouring areas displacing more residents from nearby localities.

The 2012 Olympics did have a positive impact on its host city. The stadiums and venues built in London to host the 2012 Summer Olympics are still currently being used. This can be due to the fact that the London Olympics actually profited and that there are regular events that are conducted on their various stadiums generating revenue for such maintenance and future projects.

India as a potential host for future Olympics

Cities must first invest millions of dollars in evaluating, preparing, and submitting a bid to the IOC. The cost of planning, hiring consultants, organizing events, and the necessary travel consistently falls between $50 million and $100 million. Tokyo spent as much as $150 million on its failed 2016 bid, and about half that much for its successful 2020 bid, while Toronto decided it could not afford the $60 million it would have needed for a 2024 bid. The infrastructure that is required would cost a tremendous amount of money and time for such a big event with no promises that the facilities would still be used after the games. As per the 2018 CFR reports, another problem that occurs post-Olympics are so-called “white elephants”, or expensive facilities that, because of their size or specialized nature, have limited post-Olympics use. These often impose costs for years to come. Sydney’s Olympic stadium costs the city $30 million a year to maintain. Beijing’s famous “Bird’s Nest” stadium cost $460 million to build and requires $10 million a year to maintain and sits mostly unused. Almost all of the facilities built for the 2004 Athens Olympics, whose costs contributed to the Greek debt crisis, are now derelict. Gangwon, the South Korean regional government responsible for most of the 2018 games’ infrastructure, is expected to incur an $8.5 million annual deficit due to the upkeep of unused facilities.

On the contrary, hosting international sports events bring immense profits to the country in form of tourism, increase global trade and also provide a platform for the country to exhibit its culture to the whole world. The number of foreign visitors to the host country increases exponentially during the tournament as many loyal fans travel to the venue to support their favourite player/country. These visitors provide a boost to the local economy as they require hospitality services and often explore the local market. Hotel prices rise to accommodate these tourists and provide a lot of business to the hotel owners. These events also bring in new tourists after the event is over as people are drawn to explore more of what they saw on TV. England welcomed more than one visitor every second in June 2013 after the 2012 London Summer Olympics, a 12% increase over 2012. Hosting the Olympics would provide motivation to the athletes of the host nation. When athletes are playing on their home turf, they feel motivated to perform better in front of the home crowd. The supporters cheer for the local athlete which in turn boosts their morale and leads them to exceed their limit and achieve more. This will help in the development of the game and would provide international recognition of the sport.

Sports Law and the Olympics

In 1924, India had recognized a need to develop its institution of sports and to achieve this a Sports body of national level had to be created for the promotion of such. This had resulted in the development of the Indian Olympic Association in 1927 and was concurrently recognized as the head body of the Olympics by the IOC. The IOA is registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. The responsibility of the IOA is to send the athletes to the Olympics, providing services of transportation, accommodation and health services. The onus of selection of the athletes falls on the respective National Sports Federations, BCCI for Cricket, All India Football Federation for Football, Athletic Federation of India for Athletics, etc. Sports law is still developing in India and with the absence of concrete legislations due to a lack of an Apex Body, many problematic instances can arise such as doping, match-fixing and anti-competitive practices, which are already prevalent in various sports fields.

In the case of K. Murugan Etc. v. Fencing Assn. of India, Jabalpur[3], it was held that the IOA will further promote the Olympic games by ensuring there is infrastructure for the training of athletes and that the IOC will be a part of the state federation, working together for the betterment of Sports in India.

In the case of Indian Olympic Association v Union of India[4], it was argued by the petitioners that the imposing of new legislatures brought by the National Sports Code 2011, which effected the term period of office bearers, namely the President, Secretary or Secretary-General and the Treasurer. The legislature held that an office-bearer of a National Federation/Association may hold office as such for one term of 4 years, and may be eligible for re-election for a like term or period and may not hold term consecutively for a period more than 8 years. It was contended by the petitioners that this violated their rights guaranteed under Article 14, 19 (1)(c) and 21 of the Indian Constitution. It was held by the court that the tenure restrictions in the Sports code are legally admissible and are insisted upon for the betterment of public welfare. It was also contended by the Supreme court that sports reform in India is below par with little to no interest in its prosperity by either sports bodies or the state itself.

With the meagre medals won in the Olympics: 6 in the London Olympics 2012 and 2 in the Rio Olympics 2016, by a population of 1.2 billion, the fault surely lies in the State and Authorities governing sports in India. Sports can be popularized and made successful, when those who genuinely feel the need to inspire and attract talent, and are themselves driven by inspiration, evolve policies that result in a range of sporting activities becoming as or even somewhat as rewarding as cricket. The state has to make changes to the field of sports and introduce rigid sports laws to invoke involvement and attachment to sports from the citizens and until then, only those who are extremely talented and live and dream about sports will be able to excel.

*The author is a Law Scholar from Jindal Global Law School.

(The image used here is for representational purposes only)


[1] Barclay, J. (2009). Predicting the costs and benefits of Mega-Sporting events: misjudgement of Olympic proportions? Economic Affairs, 29(2), 62-66. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0270.2009.01896. [2] The Damage from Mega-Sporting Events inBrazil J. Justin Woods Pace University School of Law, [3] 1991 SCR (1) 658, 1991 SCC (2) 412 [4] Indian Olympic Association vs Union of India on 9 May 2014