Olympics and International Sports Law Research Guide

This guide is for researching the legal aspects of the Olympic Games. General international sports law resources are also included.


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Organization & Legal Structure of the Olympic Games

The founding document of the Olympic Movement is the Olympic Charter, which addresses the legal status of the International Olympic Committee, the role of the International Federations and the National Olympic Committees, the World Anti-Doping Code, as well as the Olympic flag, emblems, motto and flame, among other things. The Olympic Charter also states that all disputes that arise in connection with the Olympic Games shall be submitted exclusively to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).



Founded on June 23, 1894 by French educator Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is an international non-governmental organization that is the final authority on the Olympic Movement. The IOC owns the rights to the Olympic symbols, flag, motto and anthem. The Executive Board of the IOC assumes many of the legislative functions of the organization and is responsible for enacting all regulations necessary for the full implementation of the Olympic Charter. The Executive Board is assisted in its administrative function by various commissions, including the Athletes’; Ethics; Culture and Olympic Heritage; Gender Equality, Diversity and InclusionLegal Affairs; Medical and Scientific; and Revenues and Commercial Partnerships Commissions.

The individual members of the IOC represent the IOC in their respective countries. Unlike congressional or parliamentary members, they do not represent the interests of their individual countries to the IOC. There are currently 106 members of the IOC.



Each sport is governed internationally by an international federation (IF), a non-governmental organization responsible for the administration of one or more sports at the international level. For example, the International Skating Union and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) are examples of IFs. International federations often set the rules and procedures for international competitions. They are recognized by the IOC and cooperate with it by ensuring that their activities comply with the Olympic Charter. Additionally, IFs are responsible for the technical control of their sport at the Olympic Games. A list of the IFs recognized by the IOC is available on its website. Athletes and individual sports are also governed by national bodies in their home country. These national bodies are members of their respective international federations.

Category International Federations Examples National Association Examples


Summer Sports

Badminton World Federation, International Equestrian FederationFédération Internationale de Gymnastiques Badminton Association of India, Fédération française d’équitation, Japan Gymnastics Association


Winter Sports

World Curling, International Ice Hockey Federation, International Ski Federation Swiss Curling Association, Ice Hockey Federation of Russia, Norwegian Ski Federation

Note that there is a separate category for sports federations that represent sports not currently part of the Olympic Games but which are recognized by the IOC. Collectively, these federations are represented by the Association of IOC Recognised International Sports Federations (ARISF). Occasionally, sports represented by such federations are added to the Olympic Games (e.g. curling, which was added in 1998); sports may also be dropped (e.g. water skiing and tug of war). The IOC maintains a list of sports governed by international federations recognized by the IOC here.



Each country that belongs to the International Olympic Committee has its own National Olympic Committee (NOC) which promotes the development of their respective national athletes and selects which ones will attend the Olympic Games. NOCs also nominate host cities for selection by the International Olympic Committee. There are currently 206 NOCs organized into five regional associations:



The IOC entrusts the organization of the Olympic Games to the NOC of the host country. The local NOC forms an OCOG to accomplish the task of organizing the Olympic Games for a given year. OCOGs must comply with three sources of authority: the Olympic Charter; the contract entered into between the IOC, the NOC of the host country, and the host city; and the instructions from the IOC Executive Board.

The Winter and Summer games alternate every two years. The OCOGs currently operating are Paris 2024 (Summer), Milano Cortina 2026 (Winter), Los Angeles 2028 (Summer), and Brisbane 2032 (Summer).