Executive Summary

The Olympic and Paralympic Games are the world’s largest and most complex sporting events. For most spectators, the event lasts a few weeks; however, for athletes, it is the culmination of years, sometimes decades, of preparation. The same is true for the organisations that host the Games. The scale and complexity of organising an international sporting event of this nature poses a wide array of challenges and opportunities, involves years of planning and preparation, and leaves a lasting legacy for host cities.

To plan and deliver the Games, host cities establish temporary institutions known as Organising Committees for Olympic Games (OCOGs). OCOGs work with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), host cities and other institutions to deliver the various sporting events, lodge athletes and officials, manage transport, provide medical support and organise all of the supporting infrastructure for the Games. OCOGs are created for the specific objective of delivering the Games and are disbanded after the events. The ad-hoc nature of OCOGs is inherent to their objective of effectively delivering a one-time international sporting competition within a set time frame; however, this creates a number of challenges related to efficiency and sustainability.

Organising the Games involves significant risks, in particular those related to providing infrastructure such as sporting facilities and accommodation as well as services such as catering, transport and support staff. Despite the specific purpose and context, these challenges are not unique to the Games. Delivering any infrastructure project of scale or large international event will involve similar risks and strategies for addressing them. As such, the risks, guidance, and principles outlined in this report are applicable to various other contexts. Given the scope and complexity of major event delivery, the report does not seek to be comprehensive, but rather to address the largest challenges that would benefit from lessons drawn from beyond the world of sports.

This report looks at cross-cutting issues that can affect the effective procurement of infrastructure and associated services necessary to host Olympic and Paralympic Games. It offers experiences, good practice and practical tools that could help mitigate these risks. These Guidelines also provide checklists to help organisers of large international events assess their exposure to the risks identified in this report.

Based on experience and good practices collected from previous Games and other major projects and events, this report addresses four common areas of risk for OCOGs:

  • Institutional set-up and organisational management: Overlapping mandates, unclear responsibilities, inadequate coordination, lack of skilled staff and high turnover rates are all critical risks for OCOGs; however, a number of tools and practices have been developed to address these risks. By defining clear decision-making bodies, establishing formal and informal collaboration mechanisms and a flexible organisational structure, OCOGs can ensure effective coordination and an adequately resourced, capable organisation.

  • Sustainability and legacy: Over time, the Olympic and Paralympic Games have grown in nature and scale, and so too has its impact on host communities and the environment. Given the climate crisis and the urgency of achieving sustainable development, OCOGs now focus on organising sustainable Games that leave a positive impact on society. Key risks include the potential detrimental impact of hosting the Games on long-term development goals, poor post-Games use of infrastructure, and human rights and environmental risks associated with long, complex supply chains. OCOGs can benefit from a range of policies, tools and good practices from the world of sport and from broader infrastructure governance and procurement practice to assess their current approaches and inform the development of their own strategies and policies.

  • Stakeholder and citizen participation: The Games present opportunities and challenges for citizens of host communities and other stakeholders. Without strong stakeholder and citizen participation, the delivery of infrastructure can have a disproportionate impact on vulnerable communities, exclude them from the benefits of the Games, and negatively affect their trust and engagement. To address these challenges, OCOGs can map the stakeholder landscape and ensure that infrastructure and services are accessible to all and as inclusive as possible.

  • Programme management: OCOGs play many roles in a challenging delivery environment. Depending on the institutional arrangements and the infrastructure and services being procured, the OCOG may be directly conducting procurements, or setting specifications and standards and overseeing procedures by other actors. In both cases, the OCOG is responsible for ensuring the coordinated delivery of a full programme of infrastructure and associated services to an immovable deadline. OCOGs are ultimately responsible for the successful delivery of a suite of venues and services, an inherently more complex task then delivering a single sports event or a single venue. By relying on evidence-based analysis, taking a strategic and risk-based approach to the market, and increasingly by leveraging the event industry’s ability to supply readymade solutions, OCOGs can ensure efficient, successful delivery of the Games.

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