“The Games adapt to the host, not the host to the Games”.

What impact do the IOC reform processes have on the possible hosting of Olympic and Paralympic Games? What have the reforms already achieved? We asked Jacqueline Barrett, Director of Future Olympic Games Hosts at the IOC, this and more.

The picture shows Jacqueline Barrett from the IOC.

With the approval of Olympic Agenda 2020+5, the IOC is continuing its reform process initiated through Olympic Agenda 2020. What are the objectives of Olympic Agenda 2020+5? 

Olympic Agenda 2020+5 is the strategic roadmap for the Olympic Movement leading up to 2025. Building on the achievements of Olympic Agenda 2020, it focuses on five themes identified by Olympic stakeholders as key to making a better world through sport, and to securing a stable and promising future for sport itself. 

These themes are: solidarity; digitalisation; sustainable development; credibility; and economic and financial resilience. 

The aims are to empower the Olympic Movement to strengthen solidarity between people and organisations involved in sport; to harness the positive potential of digitalisation to promote sport and the Olympic values; and to help Olympic stakeholders to work towards achieving the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

There is a strong focus on ensuring credibility, good governance, and economic resilience. This is especially important as 90 per cent of the International Olympic Committee’s revenue is redistributed to sport and athlete development across the globe – that is the equivalent of USD 4.2 million every day. 

How has the implementation of Olympic Agenda 2020+5 continued to change the strategic direction of the IOC, and what concrete measures have already been taken to achieve these goals? 

In terms of hosting the Olympic Games, as a direct result of Olympic Agenda 2020+5, we encourage all potential hosts to position their Olympic projects as catalysts towards achieving the UN SDGs. In order to do so, we have revised the Host Contract to strengthen requirements around sustainability, including climate commitments, human rights and gender equality. 

From 2030, Organising Committees for the Olympic Games (OCOGs) will be obliged by the IOC to reduce direct and indirect emissions; compensate more than their residual emissions; and use their influence to facilitate the host region or country’s transition to a low-carbon economy. 

In the area of human rights, the IOC adopted a new strategic framework in September 2022. As the owner of the Olympic Games, the IOC is committed to driving human rights best practices both in its selection of hosts and in the organisation of the Games, by working with the OCOGs, within their remit – with clear requirements and supporting tools and in line with all internationally recognised human rights standards and principles, including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. 

Hosts from 2030 onwards will be required to systematically integrate gender equality and diversity considerations, in line with guidance from UN Women, throughout the planning and staging of the Games. 

These are subjects that the IOC raises with all National Olympic Committees, cities and regions that approach us to talk about hosting the Games. It is very important that they are thought about and integrated into a project from the very beginning. 

There have also been significant modifications in the way that Olympic Games are being delivered in the future. “The New Norm”, a set of reforms, is based on six recommendations of Olympic Agenda 2020. What exactly does “the New Norm” involve? 

The first element is that the Games should adapt to the host, and not the host to the Games. 

The IOC encourages sustainable and flexible Games proposals which fit with long-term development plans for the local region and country; ensure that nothing is built only for the Games; prioritise existing and temporary venues; and focus on creating long-term benefits for local people. 

We have removed minimum venue capacities; and hosts are able to propose events or sports outside the main hosting region and even outside the country, for sustainability reasons if there is no suitable venue. Where venues are existing, for sustainability, a more compact project can be beneficial. We encourage hosts to use existing transport systems and re-use the field of play for different sports where possible. 

Overall it is easier to aspire to host the Olympic Games: they are more adaptable, cost effective, and flexible to suit the needs of the local population.   

Although Tokyo 2020 was elected as an Olympic host in 2013 before the reforms were adopted, the IOC and the Organising Committee made retrospective changes to the Games plan, replacing proposed new venues with existing sites such as Enoshima for sailing and Baji Koen for equestrianism.  Other sports were moved to temporary settings. For example, fencing, taekwondo and wrestling were all held at Makuhari Messe, which was an existing venue but the set-ups for those sports were temporary. USD 4.2 billion in savings were made thanks to the New Norm.  

In the past few years, there have been a number of further changes to the approach to electing Olympic hosts. Thanks to all of the IOC’s reforms, recently elected hosts for Summer and Winter Games have spent 80 per cent less than previous candidate cities during the application process. 

We are continuing to optimise the delivery of the Olympic Games. The IOC has formed a new Games Optimisation Group with representatives from all Games stakeholders, including the future OCOGs, working together to innovate to make the Games more sustainable, resource-efficient and future-proof.  

What has changed for future hosts as a result of these reforms?  

In terms of hosting the Olympic Games, we can see from the strong global interest from every continent that Olympic Agenda 2020 has made hosting the Games modern, relevant and desirable.  

Many potential hosts have told us that they are coming to the table as a direct result of the reforms. This was especially the case for Brisbane 2032, which does not plan to host the Games in a single city, but across the region of South-East Queensland, with other satellite venues too. This has made hosting the Olympic Games possible for many smaller cities and regions, which can partner to share resources and use as many existing venues as possible.  

The new, commitment-free open dialogue with potential hosts means more regions are open to discussing a proposal to stage the Games.  

Finally, let’s have a look at the next edition of the Games, to be held in 2024 in Paris. The Paris 2024 Games have also been called “the Games of a new era”. Can you tell us why? 

Paris 2024 will serve as a blueprint that will help to shape future editions of the Olympic Games and other major events, for two principle reasons. 

Firstly, there will be unprecedented public access to these Games. With the slogan “Games Wide Open”, the Organising Committee will offer the population the opportunity not only to experience the Games as spectators, but also to take part in mass sports events and engagement programmes. Famous monuments will be transformed into magnificent competition venues, and the Opening Ceremony will be held on the River Seine, with hundreds of thousands of people able to join the celebration. 

Secondly, Paris 2024 represents the first Games to be planned and delivered in line with the reforms of Olympic Agenda 2020 and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Construction will be minimised, with 95 per cent of venues existing or temporary. The Organising Committee is targeting a 50 per cent reduction in carbon emissions compared to the average of London 2012 and Rio 2016. 

Paris 2024 is committed to ensuring long term benefits for local and national populations and is bringing more sport to more people, at schools, at work and in cities. Paris 2024 successfully advocated a daily 30-minute exercise period in French primary schools, an initiative that aims to reach 4.2 million pupils nationwide.  

Accessible social and economic opportunities are being created, boosting local employment and entrepreneurship.