Understanding the Regulations and International Law Around Multi-Sport Events

By: Yudistira Adipratama, S.H., LL.M. and Mohamad Rafi Andiansyah, S.H.

Date: September 25, 2023


In a world where sports transcend borders and unite nations, multi-sport events have become a global spectacle. Multi-sport events are defined as organized sporting events, often held over multiple days, featuring competition in many different sports among organized teams of athletes from all over the world. From the illustrious Olympics to regional tournaments like the South East Asian Games (“SEA Games”), these events bring athletes and enthusiasts from around the world together to celebrate the spirit of competition. However, what many may not realize is that beyond the athletic achievements, these multi-sport events are governed by a complex web of regulations and international law agreements that bind participating countries. Furthermore, the landscape of multi-sport events has evolved, now even encompassing the realm of esports.

This perspective is based on the extensive experience of K-CASE Lawyer, which has been actively involved in Indonesia’s participation in three significant multi-sport events: the 14th IESF World Esports Championships held in Bali, the 2023 SEA Games hosted in Cambodia, and the 19th Asian Games in 2022, held in Hangzhou. KCASE’s involvement in these events has offered valuable insights into the intricate world of multi-sport gatherings, particularly with regard to the inclusion of esports as a prominent component. In this article, we delve into the fascinating world of regulations surrounding multi-sport events, including the international legal aspects and how countries agree to abide by them, all while highlighting the recent inclusion of esports in events such as the SEA Games and Asian Games.

The Backbone of Multi-Sport Events

Multi-sport events are not organized in a vacuum; they are governed by international sports organizations. Foremost among these is the International Olympic Committee (“IOC”), which holds responsibility for overseeing the Olympic Games—a pinnacle of athletic competition. In contrast, emerging organizations such as the Asian Electronic Sports Federation (“AESF”) have gained prominence, particularly in the context of esports. These organizations play vital roles in establishing the rules, standards, and guidelines that participating countries are obliged to adhere to. These encompass a wide array of aspects, ranging from athlete eligibility to doping control, venue requirements, and the rigorous process for selecting host cities.

International Law and Multi-Sport Events

When it comes to multi-sport events, the legal landscape is firmly rooted in international law, comprising several key elements that shape the way these global spectacles are organized and conducted. Two paramount aspects to consider in this context are the host nation agreements and the notion of sovereignty that participating countries grapple with. First, the applicable rules are pivotal in defining the legal obligations, financial commitments, and responsibilities of the countries hosting or attending the multi-sport event. Second, the sovereignty of nations participating in these events must be observed the same way it is observed in International Law. This section delves into these key elements and the intricate interplay between international law and the sovereignty of nations in the realm of multi-sport events.

The legal framework underpinning multi-sport events is anchored in international law. Several key elements come into play, which are:

  1. Host Nation Agreements: When a country bids to host a multi-sport event, it enters into a host nation agreement with the relevant international sports organization. This agreement outlines the legal obligations, financial commitments, and responsibilities of the host country.
  2. Olympic Charter, Esports Regulations, and Fundamental Principles: The Olympic Charter and specific regulations serve as constitutions for their respective events and set forth fundamental principles, such as non-discrimination, fair play, and the peaceful resolution of disputes. Participating countries agree to abide by these principles.
  3. Dispute Resolution Forums: International sports organizations have established mechanisms for resolving disputes that may arise during the events, including athlete grievances, and doping allegations, which must be adhered to in conflicts between countries. For example, the IOC mandates that any dispute having to do with the Olympic Games shall be submitted to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Participating in multi-sport events is a voluntary act for countries, and they agree to be bound by the event’s regulations through certain means, which are:

  1. Membership: These may differ in the case of different multi-sport events, but as an example, in the case of the Olympic Games, countries must have a National Olympic Committee (“NOC”) that has received recognition from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to qualify for participation in multi-sport events. Article 27 of the Olympic Charter, crafted by the IOC, establishes the roles and authorities of NOCs within their respective nations. Furthermore, it underscores the obligation of NOCs to guarantee the adherence of their country’s athletes and officials to the provisions of the Olympic Charter and the determinations made by the IOC.
  2. Bid and Commitment: When a country decides to submit a bid to host a multi-sport event or confirms its participation, this marks the beginning of a formal commitment process. In practice, this often involves a rigorous selection and bidding process. Countries interested in hosting an event, such as the Olympic Games or FIFA World Cup, typically go through a competitive bidding process, where they present detailed proposals outlining their plans, facilities, and financial commitments. Through its bid, it tacitly agrees to abide by the event’s regulations governing it.

The Changing Landscape

One of the most remarkable developments in recent years is the inclusion of esports in multi-sport events. Esports, with its global popularity, has found its place alongside traditional sports in events like the SEA Games and the Asian Games. This inclusion marks a significant shift in the perception of competitive gaming and its recognition as a legitimate sporting endeavor.

Multi-sport events exemplify sports’ role in fostering international cooperation, requiring an understanding of key regulations and legal aspects. They unite nations in celebrating athletic excellence and upholding principles like fair play and inclusivity as defined in international law. The inclusion of esports highlights the evolving nature of these events, showcasing shared global values and aspirations that transcend tradition and time.

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