IOC Contract Binds City to Olympic Rules
Contract binds Vancouver to play by IOC rules or not play at
Elites of the Olympic movement and former mayor sealed deal to bypass Canada's constitutionally protected rights and freedoms
By Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun
August 7, 2009
It's easy to understand why the International Olympic Committee would want any disputes with host cities decided by its own "court," so that it is beyond the grasp of courts in countries whose judicial systems are dodgy.
But why on earth did Vancouver's former mayor Larry Campbell sign the host city contract governed by Swiss law and agree that "any dispute concerning [the contract's] validity, interpretation or performance shall be determined conclusively by arbitration, to the exclusion of the ordinary courts of Switzerland or of the host country?"
The sports court -- the IOC's arbitration process -- deals with issues of athletes' disqualifications due to doping or other infractions. It has rarely, if ever, dealt with the myriad other issues from sponsorship agreements to taxes to financial disbursements that are covered in the Vancouver agreement.
Signing off Vancouver's right to access Canadian courts in the event of a dispute with the IOC is just one of the troubling pieces of the 61-page contract signed in 2003 and obtained by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association under B.C.'s Access to Information Act.
The contract's preamble declares that the IOC is "the supreme authority of and leads the Olympic movement."
And the Olympic ayatollahs required that the city stage the Games in full compliance with the Olympic Charter and that it agrees to "conduct all activities in a manner which promotes and enhances the integrity, ideals and long-term interests of the IOC and the Olympic Movement."
I've added the emphasis because in a pen stroke, Campbell signed away the real responsibility of democratically elected mayors and councillors to promote, enhance and represent the long-term interests of their citizens.
There is no mention in the contract of human rights or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Instead, it stipulates that the city must abide by the Olympic Charter and be in "full compliance with universal fundamental ethical principles, including those contained in the IOC Code of Ethics."
In effect, the city and the IOC have attempted to contract their way out of Canadian legal jurisdiction and beyond the reach of constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms.
It's something that the civil liberties association is considering challenging in court. Another group, Impact on Communities Coalition, filed two complaints with the United Nations High Commissioners of Human Rights last week. One deals with civil liberties and the city's omnibus bylaw, while the other is about
inadequate tenancy protection.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon has already ruled that as a government agency, the Vancouver organizing committee is subject to the Charter.
However, she also decided that despite Vanoc having to be Charter-compliant, there was nothing Vanoc could do to force the IOC to include a women's ski jumping event.
It's the Olympic Charter that now-Senator Campbell signed on to obey in 2003. He bound the city (and his Vision party successor Gregor Robertson) to its provisions limiting free speech and agreed to even stronger restrictions in the contract.
Contrary to the Canadian Charter's guarantee of free speech and peaceful protest, the Olympic Charter says: "No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any of the Olympic sites, venues or other areas."
(Despite the word's negative connotations, propaganda's dictionary definition is a statement of principles or beliefs.)
Under the Vancouver contract, no propaganda or advertising material can be within view of spectators at the venues or television cameras covering the sports or "in the airspace over the city and other cities and venues hosting Olympic events during the period of the Games."
To meet its contractual obligations, Vancouver's council recently passed an omnibus bylaw amending dozens of existing laws.
Among the changes are the creation of so-called free-speech zones and blocks of the city (including David Lam Park, the main library's precinct and the Vancouver Art Gallery) where no political pamphlets, leaflets, graffiti or "non-celebratory posters" will be allowed.
Despite that, Robertson insists all of Vancouver remains a free-speech zone. He defends the bylaw as a balance between safety and security and respecting citizens' rights.
But asked whether he would have signed the contract in 2003, Robertson hedged.
"I would like to know if the city could have negotiated something different," he replied.
Meanwhile, Vanoc has asked other municipalities along the 44,000-kilometre torch relay route to pass bylaws ensuring that no political messages be distributed or visible.
It's not clear how many have agreed, nor is it clear whether the IOC will ask that the torch route be altered if they refuse.
That's the sword of Damocles that the secretive elites of the international Olympic movement hang over the heads of enthusiastic sports bodies, organizing committees and politicians.
Play by our rules or not at all.