2. Institutional set-up and organisational management

OCOGs are established to deliver the Olympic Games on a predetermined and fixed timeline. Their mandate covers diverse aspects related to the organisation of the Games, as defined in the Host City Contract, ranging from communication, security, and the organisation of sports competitions to the delivery of sports-related infrastructure, among others. In addition, the OCOGs coordinate relations with and between the IOC, international sports federations, National Olympic Committees, as well as local and national governments. Since the 2000 Olympics, host countries have all passed special Games-related legislation which typically allows for the creation of public agencies to carry out key Olympic functions, such as building infrastructure and organising transportation and security. Governments will often appoint an Olympic minister or senior unelected official to coordinate between local, regional, and national stakeholders (Chappelet, 2021[1]).

The nature of OCOGs, created to deliver of the Games and dismantled once the competition finishes, and the fact that they may not hold direct responsibility for the delivery of sports-related infrastructure and associated services, creates specific delivery challenges related to institutional set-up and organisational management. This section examines those challenges in the context of the procurement and delivery of Games infrastructure and associated services, with a focus on four areas of risk:

  • Overlapping mandates and unclear decision making;

  • Weak coordination mechanisms;

  • Lack of appropriately skilled staff; and,

  • Inadequate or unresponsive on-boarding processes and high turnover rates.

A transparent, coherent, predictable, legitimate and accountable institutional framework, in which relevant institutions are entrusted with clear, consistent mandates and ample decision-making powers, is a precondition for the effective delivery of infrastructure and associated services. OCOGs face challenges common to the delivery of major projects, related to both the complexity of formal structures, rules and norms, and to the number of parties, which requires a high level of ongoing interaction between many stakeholders (Denicol, Davies and Krystallis, 2020[2]). The fact that no single entity has ultimate decision-making power for the entirety of Games delivery creates a number of challenges for OCOGs.

OCOGs operate in an environment with a large number of institutions with varying responsibilities and decision-making powers. These stakeholders include national, regional and local governments, the IOC, the National Olympic Committee, international sport federations, and often delivery agencies established to deliver specific elements of the Games. Overlapping roles and responsibilities between these stakeholders can result in complex structures and processes that hinder effective decision making and blur the lines of responsibility and accountability. Weaknesses in defining organisational boundaries can introduce an additional layer of complexity when dealing with other challenges. A review of lessons learned from London 2012 found that there was clarity about responsibilities and decision making in most areas, with the exception of legacy, where responsibility was dispersed; legacy efforts were consequently found to be less successful. This lack of clear responsibility was also reflected in the lack of a specific legacy budget, which was described as a risk to achieving the maximum benefit from the Games (Norris, Rutter and Medland, 2013[3]).

If institutional arrangements are not well designed and implemented, they can result in an inability to operate effectively under the tight time pressures inherent to Games delivery. Because of the large number of stakeholders, governance and decision-making structures for Games infrastructure are often complex. For example, the Board of the Vancouver 2010 OCOG included three members appointed by each of the federal and provincial governments, two each by the two host municipalities, seven by the Canadian Olympic Committee, one by the Canadian Paralympic Committee and one by local First Nations (Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, 2010[6]).

The number of stakeholders involved in the delivery of Games infrastructure can make it challenging for OCOGs to implement effective co-ordination mechanisms and to establish and sustain timely decision-making processes. Designing and operationalising structures that include all relevant parties while also being able to provide clear and effective decision making is challenging, and legal and financial frameworks need to be supported by practical, sometimes ad-hoc, working arrangements and protocols. As shown in the above example of the 2000 Sydney Games, a more integrated governance structure could be progressively developed in the lead up to the Games to facilitate interactions between decision-makers. Governance mechanisms may also need to change over time, as OCOGs make fewer, more strategic decisions in the early years of planning and more frequent, operational decisions as the Games approach (Deloitte, 2013[7]).

Co-ordination of institutional stakeholders is an essential pre-requisite for efficient and effective infrastructure planning, and should be established as early as possible (OECD, 2020[9]). Mutual learning among actors is critical to maximising the impact of investments, while failing to share financial information and underestimating co-ordination challenges can exacerbate risks (OECD, 2018[10]). Complex organisational structures and the absence of coordination mechanisms can heighten difficulties in inter- and intra-institutional cooperation. With a large number of projects taking place simultaneously, the chances of projects interlocking or overlapping, and the associated need for strong coordination efforts, are high. Conversely, well-thought through networks could help OCOGs coordinating a diverse set of stakeholders. The 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Games, in the context of a federal country, provided a clear illustration of these benefits.

As shown above, diffused responsibilities amongst institutions can also increase challenges in coordination with different levels and structures of government, especially when these public entities have differing priorities, resources, responsibilities, or expectations. The new event delivery model promoted by the Olympic Agenda 2020+5 and the increased use of existing venues both have the potential to exacerbate these risks. Outsourcing the delivery of events and relying more heavily on existing venue owners and operators may increase the number or the relative leverage of delivery partners. Large, experienced event delivery partners may expect greater autonomy and have existing processes and suppliers, creating more complex coordination challenges.

A sound institutional framework for the Games delivery requires capable organisations equipped with relevant skills and resources. Without the necessary institutional arrangements and resources from the very start of the programme, OCOGs could risk being unable to deliver the required infrastructure and associated services within the expected timeframes or quality standards. A lack of understanding, adaptability or seniority of resources to launch and support the delivery of major sport events can be prejudicial in high-speed acquisition and spending contexts (International Olympic Committee, 2020[12]). Local and national governments, in particular, may lack prior experience hosting and organising large-scale sporting events, as well as delivering major sport infrastructure. As a result, OCOGs face challenges in terms of anticipating human resources needs and finding and retaining staff with the right experience and skill-set. Additionally, OCOGs may also face difficulties imparting new skills needed to existing or available staff as needs change throughout the preparation for the Games.

The delivery of the Games takes place in a fast-paced environment and imposes strict time constraints on OCOGs. They may be challenged to recruit qualified staff for time-limited employment, and to adapt their workforce to changing needs as the Games progress. The complexity and scale of infrastructure delivery often requires a specialised workforce, capable of designing and implementing complex procurement strategies, understanding and allocating risks, and adapting standard procedures to new and unique situations (OECD, 2021[13]). A wide range of skills and competencies are required at different points throughout the delivery cycle, including skills related to planning, procurement, construction, and operations. Beyond the universe of the Olympic Games, many countries have acknowledged the diversity of roles, skills and competencies that are core to the effective delivery of large projects. Such an example could be found in the Project Delivery Capability Framework developed, and last updated in 2021, by the UK.

At the outset of the Games delivery cycle, OCOGs require staff with the ability to define responsibilities and accountabilities, develop policies and strategies, and establish processes to monitor progress. Key early skills also include the ability to define scope, timelines and resource requirements for individual projects and functions, as well as provide consolidated planning of the overall Games programme. This includes the capacity to estimate costs, produce budgets and develop processes for tracking spending, as well as competencies related to the identification and analysis of delivery options and the ability to develop and recommend optimal solutions.

OCOGs also require procurement knowledge and experience from pre-publication to post-award, as well as staff able to operate in an increasingly complex environment: along with traditional value for money procurement goals, they must also be aware of the OCOG’s secondary procurement goals, such as sustainability, and the tools and techniques to incorporate them into the procurement process.

As Games delivery advances, OCOGs must manage the delivery of a programme of projects, and require staff with the ability to develop and maintain schedules that account for dependencies and constraints, manage complex and interconnected contractual relationships, as well identify, monitor and mitigate risk. Knowledge and experience with contract management, logistics and inventory management, and contract monitoring tools and techniques become increasingly critical as the Games approach. This list, while not exhaustive, provides a sense of the challenge OCOGs face in recruiting for this wide range of roles, and continuing to evolve their workforces as their needs change rapidly throughout the Games delivery cycle.

A lack of consistent, strong project leadership is also a potential risk for OCOGs. The more complex a project the greater level of required management expertise and experience, requiring leaders comfortable making decisions and setting direction in an environment of uncertainty and continual change. Dedicated leaders who are committed to the success of the project are a key success factor in the delivery of large-scale, complex projects like the Games (Denicol, Davies and Krystallis, 2020[2]). The large number of stakeholders means that the ability to recognize, anticipate and effectively deal with existing or potential conflicts is critical, as well as skills to influence and impact decisions internally and externally.

In addition to challenges identifying and hiring appropriately skilled staff, the capacity of OCOGs to deliver the required sport infrastructure and related services can be compromised by slow on-boarding processes or insufficient continuity of resources throughout the different phases of the delivery of the Games ( (International Olympic Committee, 2020[12])). To successfully deliver Games infrastructure, OCOGs must grow as organisations extremely quickly across a range of functions. The London 2012 Organising Committee grew from approximately 95 staff (Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, 2007[15]) in 2007 to a peak of over 8,500 by 2012 (London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, 2013[16]), while the Vancouver 2010 Organising Committee added an average of 35 staff per month throughout 2008, two years before the Games (Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, 2009[17]). Recruiting and on-boarding experienced key resources and leaders is a critical early challenge, while as the Games approach there is an ever-increasing need to hire large numbers of staff.

OCOGs are also tasked with a broad set of responsibilities, requiring staff with a diverse set of skills; for example, the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee was organised into nine activity streams, each consisting of a total of 55 functional areas (Organizing Committee for the XXII Olympic Winter Games and XI Paralympic Winter Games of 2014 in Sochi, 2014[19]). Designing and executing a human resources strategy that can quickly and effectively staff such a large and broad organisation, particularly in skill-dependent procurement and infrastructure roles, is a key challenge.

Successful delivery of infrastructure-related Games services such as transport, medical support at venues, and greeting and orientation, rely heavily on volunteers. Along with the challenges of training and onboarding tens of thousands of volunteers, risks include failing to secure sufficient volunteers (Rio 2016 and PyeongChang 2018 trained 50 000 and 14 000 volunteers respectively (Rio 2016 Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, 2016[20]; International Olympic Committee, 2019[21])) and potentially high attrition rates as a result of the commitment required or disillusionment over the roles volunteers are expected to play.

To ensure optimal institutional set-up and organisational management, OCOGs can take advantage of a range of existing policies, tools and good practices from the world of sport and from broader infrastructure governance practice. These resources provide opportunities for OCOGs to assess their current practices and approaches, inform the development of their own strategies and policies, and serve as examples of good practice.

Many of these external tools do not pertain directly to sport, however, could be useful to organisers of large-scale international sporting events as they detail relevant procurement roles and functions. They have been selected on their pertinence, quality and usefulness in terms of institutional set-up and organisational management. Table 2.2 provides a selection of tools and guidelines that can support institutional framework and organisational management of projects. There is a focus on enhancing understanding of procurement and project delivery roles and responsibilities.


[24] Centre de Droit et d’Économie du Sport and Groupe AMNYOS (2019), Cartographie des emplois directement mobilisés par lórganisation des Jeux Olympiques et Paralympiques Paris 2024, https://medias.paris2024.org/uploads/2019/04/Cartographie_emplois_Paris-2024_vf2019.pdf.

[1] Chappelet, J. (2021), “The Governance of the Olympic System: From One to Many Stakeholders”, Journal of Global Sport Management, pp. 1-18, https://doi.org/10.1080/24704067.2021.1899767.

[23] Comité d’organisation des Jeux Olympiques et Paralympiques de Paris 2024 (2021), Charte du volontariat olympique et paralympique, https://medias.paris2024.org/uploads/2021/09/Paris2024-210507-VOL-Projet-de-Charte-du-VOP-VF-4.pdf.

[8] Crossrail Limited (n.d.), Procurement Policy, https://learninglegacy.crossrail.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/crossrail_procurement_policy.pdf.

[7] Deloitte (2013), Lessons from London 2012: Pushing the boundries of programme leadership, https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/gx-icp-lessons-from-london-2012.pdf.

[2] Denicol, J., A. Davies and I. Krystallis (2020), “What Are the Causes and Cures of Poor Megaproject Performance? A Systematic Literature Review and Research Agenda”, Project Management Journal, Vol. 51/3, pp. 328-345, https://doi.org/10.1177/8756972819896113.

[14] Infrastructure Projects Authority (2021), Project Delivery Capability Framework.

[4] International Olympic Committee (2020), Advances in Olympic Games management, https://olympics.com/ioc/legacy/sydney-2000/advances-in-olympic-games-management;.

[12] International Olympic Committee (2020), Procurement of Major International Sport-Events-Related Infrastructure and Services: Good practices and guidelines for the Olympic movement, https://stillmed.olympic.org/media/Document%20Library/OlympicOrg/IOC/What-We-Do/Leading-the-Olympic-Movement/ipacs/Procurement-Guidelines-EN-v4.pdf#_ga=2.110570885.1600316014.1590398634-406123057.1536651541.

[21] International Olympic Committee (2019), Volunteers reflect on PyeongChang 2018 experience, https://olympics.com/ioc/news/volunteers-reflect-on-pyeongchang-2018-experience (accessed on 24 January 2022).

[16] London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (2013), Report and accounts for the 18 month period ended 30 September 2012.

[3] Norris, E., J. Rutter and J. Medland (2013), Making the Games: What government can learn from London 2012, Institute for Government, https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/Making%20the%20Games%20final_0.pdf.

[13] OECD (2021), OECD Implementation Handbook for Quality Infrastructure Investment: Supporting a Sustainable Recovery from the COVID-19 Crisis, https://www.oecd.org/finance/OECD-Implementation-Handbook-for-Quality-Infrastructure-Investment-EN.pdf.

[9] OECD (2020), Supporting Better Decision-Making in Transport Infrastructure in Spain : Infrastructure Governance Review, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/310e365e-en.

[10] OECD (2018), Recommendation of the Council on Global Events and Local Development, https://legalinstruments.oecd.org/en/instruments/OECD-LEGAL-0444.

[22] Organising Committee for the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games (2021), The Legacy and Sustainability Plan for the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, https://library.olympics.com/Default/doc/SYRACUSE/848876/the-legacy-and-sustainability-plan-for-the-paris-2024-olympic-and-paralympic-games-organising-commit?_lg=en-GB.

[19] Organizing Committee for the XXII Olympic Winter Games and XI Paralympic Winter Games of 2014 in Sochi (2014), Official Report, Vol. 3, https://digital.la84.org/digital/collection/p17103coll8/id/69972/rec/100.

[11] Parent, M., C. Rouillard and J. Chappelet (2018), “Empirical Issues and Challenges for Multilevel Governance: The Case of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games”, Revue Gouvernance / Governance Review, Vol. 15/2, pp. 1-26, https://doi.org/10.7202/1058086AR.

[20] Rio 2016 Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (2016), Pre-Games Integrated Report, https://library.olympics.com/default/digitalCollection/DigitalCollectionAttachmentDownloadHandler.ashx?parentDocumentId=167185&documentId=167186.

[15] Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport (2007), Memorandum submitted by The London 2012 Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

[5] Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (2001), Official Report of the 2000 Olympic Games, v. 1, https://digital.la84.org/digital/api/collection/p17103coll8/id/40889/download.

[18] Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralymic Games (2021), Guidelines for safeguarding human rights at the venues: Legacy edition for future organisers, https://library.olympics.com/Default/doc/SYRACUSE/1854633/guidelines-for-safeguarding-human-rights-at-the-venues-tokyo-2020-legacy-edition-for-future-organise.

[6] Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (2010), Vancouver 2010: Bid Report, https://digital.la84.org/digital/collection/p17103coll8/id/45534/rec/97.

[17] Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (2009), Staging the Olympic Winter Games Knowledge Report, http://digital.la84.org/digital/collection/p17103coll8/id/45339/rec/98.

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