1. Risk and the delivery of the Olympic Games

Entities entrusted with the delivery of large international sporting events, such as the Olympic Games, are confronted with a range of challenges potentially affecting their effectiveness and positive legacy. While interest in organising these events is often driven by the opportunity to introduce lasting changes in societies, an inadequate delivery environment can make these events fall short of their initial ambitions.

Organising Committees for Olympic Games (OCOGs) crystallize experiences in addressing the greatest and most varied challenges because of the scale and inherent complexity of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The ad-hoc nature of these committees, created for the purpose of the Games and dismantled soon after, brings an overarching challenge to the effective delivery of large sports competitions: the risk of losing institutional memory. Complementing efforts initiated by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on knowledge transfer between OCOGs, the IOC and the Organisation for Economic and Cooperation Development (OECD) have joined forces to develop guidelines on the effective delivery of the Games, focusing on cross-cutting challenges that affect the effective delivery of sports-related infrastructure and associated services necessary to stage Olympic and Paralympic Games. These guidelines are aiming at creating a repository of experiences and good practice and to provide future organisers with concrete guidance and references to tools to help them address challenges faced in organising large international sports competitions.

Central to the success of the Games, the efficient procurement of infrastructure and associated services is subject to numerous challenges going far beyond the technical expertise required to effectively deliver them. Those challenges are exacerbated by the unique nature and mandate of OCOGs. Besides being temporary in essence, these organisations, which are ultimately responsible for the delivery of the Games, are not always directly managing all procurement-related activities. In many instances, dedicated delivery institutions are created alongside OCOGs and are partially responsible for the procurement of sports-related infrastructure. OCOGs must navigate and effectively engage with a complex web of stakeholders, from administrations at all levels of government to international sports federations and citizens. They further must apply a legacy lens to all of their actions while making sure that what is needed for the Games is being delivered on time and on budget. Last, in order to make the Games an outstanding experience for athletes and fans, OCOGs need to seamlessly bring together all the pieces of this giant puzzle.

The OECD’s experience in the area of effective delivery of infrastructure projects and associated services builds not only on good practices synthesised in specific instruments. It also draws on experience from long-term support to developing and delivering infrastructure projects as well as specific work on how to leverage global events for local development. In recent years, the OECD has developed different instruments and standards supporting quality infrastructure. The OECD’s Recommendation on the Governance of Infrastructure (OECD, 2020[1]) defines good governance principles that aim at laying the foundations and parameters of an environment conducive to the development of quality infrastructure. The OECD Recommendation on Public Procurement (OECD, 2015[2]) further provides the overarching principles necessary for the effective delivery of quality infrastructure and for the smart procurement of goods, services and public works. Detailing major dimensions of public procurement systems, the Recommendation on Public Procurement supports a shift from an administrative, compliance-based approach to a strategic use of public procurement frameworks. The OECD’s Recommendation on Global Events and Local Development provides a framework for understanding these issues in relation to major events and further underscores the need to promote the use of strategic procurement, including through social and environmental clauses to ensure access to employment opportunities and benefits from skills training in relevant sectors such as construction, hospitality and security and to safeguard the environment. The accompanying Toolkit to the Recommendation on Global Events and Local Development offers practical guidance and checklists on promoting more sustainable major events, implementing more effective delivery mechanisms and building stronger capacities to leverage local benefits throughout the lifecycle of the event (OECD, 2018[3]).

The IOC has taken a leading role, on behalf of the Olympic Movement, in developing and providing tools, expertise, support and collaborative platforms and partnerships to turn challenges into opportunities. The Olympic Agenda 2020+5 (International Olympic Committee, 2021[4]) provides 15 recommendations to secure greater solidarity, further digitalisation, increased sustainability and strengthened credibility in the organisation of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Since 2017, the IOC and the OECD have been cooperating on combatting corruption and promoting integrity in sport within the framework of the International Partnership against Corruption in Sport (IPACS). The two organisations are co-founding partners of this initiative and have been playing an active role in IPACS’ various focus areas, including work on reducing the risk of corruption in procurement relating to sporting events and infrastructure1. A range of tools have been developed in this area by IPACS, including the IOC publication “Procurement of major international sport-events-related infrastructure and services: Good practices and guidelines for the Olympic Movement” (International Olympic Committee, 2020[5]), developed with the contribution of the OECD. The experiences of IPACS stakeholders contributed to the development of the present guidelines.

Building on this broad interest and momentum, the IOC and the OECD agreed to develop actionable guidelines covering critical dimensions for the effective delivery of infrastructure and associated services necessary for hosting sports competitions. Building on previous work, these guidelines look at the specific context in which OCOGs are required to contribute to the Games’ ambitions and identify dimensions that have a significant bearing on the delivery of sports-related infrastructure and associated services. These guidelines highlight experiences from previous editions of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and share insights from on-going preparations of future Games but also draw on the wealth of similar challenges faced by other institutions tasked with the delivery of large infrastructure projects.

The Olympic Charter highlights the three main constituent groups of the Olympic Movement and their different roles and responsibilities with regards to the Games. They are the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and the International Sports Federations (IFs). Those three stakeholders interact with the OCOG, which is ultimately responsible for the preparation and hosting of a particular edition of the Games.

In line with the Olympic Agenda 2020, the IOC launched a revised candidature process in 2017 which is structured around two main stages, introducing additional flexibility and better alignment with long-term development needs of hosting cities or regions. The new approach was first used for the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, ultimately awarded to Milano-Cortina. The two stages are the Continuous Dialogue and the Targeted Dialogue:

  • The Continuous Dialogue: an ongoing, non-committal and non-edition specific dialogue to explore and create interest among interested parties for the Olympic Games. The Continuous Dialogue provides interested cities and National Olympic Committees with an opportunity to engage in a collaboration with the IOC to assess the benefits and requirements of hosting the Games. Cities are not required to submit any formal proposals and guarantees and the IOC and Olympic Movement take a more proactive role in assisting and supporting them by sending teams of technical experts to help develop their candidature.

  • The Targeted Dialogue: a defined process to explore a proposal to host a specific edition of the Olympic Games. It is a collaborative partnership that is opened when the International Olympic Committee’s Executive Board invites one or more Preferred Host(s) to enter into detailed discussions to refine their project. While there is no set timeframe for the Targeted Dialogue, it is not anticipated to exceed 12 months. During the Targeted Dialogue, the IOC will offer a series of workshops to help ensure Preferred Hosts’ plans are in line with existing long-term development plans and are aligned with the latest developments in Olympic planning and delivery to provide operationally-efficient, cost-effective and sustainable Games. The subjects of the workshops will be determined based on the needs of the Preferred Hosts, but can include topics such as venue masterplan, legacy, sustainability, finance and marketing, Games technology, digital engagement, and legal matters.

Knowledge transfer from one Olympic Game to the others has long been on the IOC agenda. The first OCOG to transfer knowledge to the next edition of the Games through a formal knowledge management program was the 2000 Sydney Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (SOCOG) (Parent, MacDonald and Goulet, 2014[6]). In 2002, the IOC established Olympic Games Knowledge Services (OGKS), an independent company, to assist with knowledge transfer. In 2005, the IOC decided to bring its knowledge management activities in-house, with the establishment of the Olympic Games Knowledge Management (OGKM) program managed by the IOC’s Information, Knowledge and Games Learning (IKL) Unit.

Since then, the IOC has put extensive effort into developing a Knowledge Management Program. Host cities are required to transfer certain types of knowledge to the next Games, and thousands of documents have been collected from every OCOG. The IOC has also formalised knowledge transfer through an Observer Program, by which representatives of forthcoming Games visit current ones, and through an Official Debrief held three months later in the next host city (Stewart, 2012[7]).

However, several barriers in knowledge management process of sport mega-events were also identified in the literature. Three barriers are often cited as hampering an effective knowledge transfer: trust and coordination between stakeholders, an imbalanced distribution of knowledge, and the context differences between host destinations (Qin, Rocha and Morrow, 2022[8]).

Besides knowledge stemming from previous experiences in staging the Games, insights from other large infrastructure projects could provide valuable reference points.

This report presents a selection of tools and sources intended to guide the reader. The examples listed here include not only those taken from the OECD and IOC but also those from other institutions, including public and multi-lateral bodies. Many of these external tools do not pertain directly to sport but can be useful to organisers of large-scale international sporting events, as they detail relevant public procurement roles and functions. The tools serve as a point of reference and have been selected based on their pertinence, quality and usefulness in terms of each theme outlined in this report.

The primary audience for these guidelines are organising committees that are tasked with the organisation of large international sports competitions, requiring the delivery of infrastructure, whether permanent or temporary, and/or associated services necessary for the hosting of the sport competition. Beyond this primary audience, relevant stakeholders (governments, public institutions, policy makers, oversight bodies, sports federations and citizens) could better understand some of the key challenges faced by organising committees when delivering on their mandate.


[4] International Olympic Committee (2021), Olympic Agenda 2020+5: 15 Recommendations, https://stillmedab.olympic.org/media/Document%20Library/OlympicOrg/IOC/What-We-Do/Olympic-agenda/Olympic-Agenda-2020-5-15-recommendations.pdf.

[5] 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.

[1] OECD (2020), Recommendation of the Council on the Governance of Infrastructure, https://legalinstruments.oecd.org/en/instruments/OECD-LEGAL-0460.

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

[2] OECD (2015), Recommendation of the Council on Public Procurement, https://legalinstruments.oecd.org/en/instruments/OECD-LEGAL-0411.

[6] Parent, M., D. MacDonald and G. Goulet (2014), “The theory and practice of knowledge management and transfer: The case of the Olympic Games”, Sport Management Review, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1016/j.smr.2013.06.002 (accessed on 25 January 2023).

[8] Qin, Y., C. Rocha and S. Morrow (2022), “Knowledge management in sport mega-events: A systematic literature review”, Frontiers in Sports and Active Living, Vol. 4, https://doi.org/10.3389/fspor.2022.1056390.

[7] Stewart, A. (2012), Olympic Host Cities Need Transparency, Not Knowledge Transfer, Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2012/08/olympic-host-cities-need-trans (accessed on 25 January 2023).

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