A Gold Medal In Legal Advising: Legal Concerns Related to the 2012 Olympic Games

Photo by: Kelli Gordon

Legal concerns are present at nearly every stage of the Olympic games, beginning with initial bids entered by respective cities to host upcoming games and lasting well after the closing ceremony.  As for the 2012 Olympics, legal considerations began as early as 2004, when various United Kingdom law firms were hired by the the London 2012 Bid Team to advise and offer services to win 2012 summer games bid, and legal considerations will continue to play an important role after the games begin on July 27.

Financing and Investment

As with most endeavors, financing and returns on investment is a key concern with the 2012 Olympics. According to news reports from Olympic planning meetings, John Armit, head of the Olympic Delivery Authority projected the 2012 Olympics would cost over £9 billion to mount, plus £2 billion for security.  While financial return was uncertain, Armit projected monetary returns of approximately £4 billion, with an additional creation of 20,000 jobs in London to boost economic growth.  Counsel for these and other financing concerns has been provided since the earlier stages of planning by corporate firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which has offices worldwide.

In addition to legal issues with financing before the Olympic games begin, other issues arise after the Games end, leaving permanent venues to be used for other revenue-producing activities.  London will likely contract with private entities to lease these spaces for events after the Olympic games, which will create various contract law issues.  Some London based legal blogs project the permanent infrastructure will provide an opportunity for both the public and private sector to re-generate growth in lower-income areas of the city, such as the Lower Lea Valley.  In these efforts to rebuild, various public policy concerns will also need to be addressed.

General Planning and Infrastructure

London based firm Berwin Leighton Paisner was hired to provide to counsel on general planning matters related to the games, including infrastructure and crowd control.  The firm worked closely with the London Development Agency and the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), who were responsible for building new permanent venues for the Games and use afterward, building temporary facilities to be dismantled or relocated after the Games, improvement to existing venues, planning and creating transportation infrastructure and operations to support the Games, and ensuring each project meets Olympic standards for sustainable development. The ODA was established by the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act, which received Royal Assent in March 2006, and gave the ODA authority similar to that of a government agency and was necessary to establish facilities in the host city.

Legal considerations related to these goals include issues in health and environmental law, city transportation ordinances and the local building codes. Hosting the Olympics also gives rise to several policy considerations for the city, such as reducing of the threat of terrorist attacks and sustainability of the infrastructure built and improved for the Games.

Employment and Immigration

In addition to providing new infrastructure, the building and maintenance of these facilities, as well as the staff hired to oversee the Games, is expected to provide a total of at least 20,000 short-term jobs in the two years leading up to the Olympics.  In most cases, jobs are fulfilled by both citizens from the host country and  visitors from countries around the world.  This employment situation creates a need for advising in both employment law and immigration law, which is being provided by leading international law firm, Ashurst.

Sponsorship and Trademark

Perhaps some of the most well known legal concerns with the Olympics are sponsorship and trademark issues.  London based firm Clifford Chance has been given the responsibility of advising on issues arising from these sponsorship agreements.  While sponsorship agreements with a particular athlete or the Olympics in general could be very lucrative, there are also an abundance of legal considerations related to marketing.

The Olympic Symbol etc (Protection) Act 1995 (referred to as OSPA) prevents the use of any of the Olympic words, symbols or mottos (such as the Olympic rings or “London 2012”) for commercial purposes without authorization from the International Olympic Committee (IOC). IOC generally prevents the use of anything that suggests a direct association with the Olympics in the course of trade to protect its own agreements with official marketing partners. These brands, like most others, are protected by registered trademarks and copyrights.  OSPA applies not only to the London 2012 Games, but also to any use of protected words or symbols in general. Similar to action by past host countries, Parliament has granted the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (the board responsible for preparing and staging the 2012 games) legal rights under the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act of 2006 and OSPA. Both the registering and enforcement of rights related to these symbols and mottos give rise to several Intellectual Property issues.

Although the aforementioned issues are some of the most commonly discussed legal concerns related to the Olympic games, the list barely “scratches the surface” of legal issues related to any series of the games. Issues related to sports law, ticketing, business names, merchandise and several other areas trigger legal considerations. And while most patrons and television viewers of the 2012 Olympic games will not consult Black’s Law Dictionary while tuning in to their favorite event, rest assured there are many lawyers around the world with a file folder labeled “Olympic Games 2012.”



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About Leslie Underwood, Former Associate Editor (10 Articles)
Leslie graduated from Campbell Law School in 2013. She is a native of Four Oaks, North Carolina. In 2010, Leslie graduated summa cum laude from North Carolina State University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management and a minor in Political Science. Leslie participated in numerous moot court competitions, served as a 2012 Graduation Marshal, and worked as a Graduate Assistant in the Campbell Law Career Center. From 2007 to 2010, she was a file clerk at Coats & Bennett, PLLC. In the Summer of 2011, she was an intern at North Carolina Department of the Secretary of State. She was also a summer associate at Smith, Debnam, Narron, Drake, Saintsing & Myers, LLP and externed in the Chambers of the Honorable Linda Stephens at the North Carolina Court of Appeals.
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