Blog: Leonie BarrieFair sporting conditions

Leonie Barrie | 11 June 2007

On the eve of an International Olympic Committee meeting in London, a new report “No medal for the Olympics on labour rights” has discovered children as young as 12 are producing merchandise in China for next year’s games in Beijing. The factories visited by the PlayFair 2008 campaign group churn out goods including headwear and bags, and make their employees work up to 15 hours a day, seven days a week, for less than half the legal wages.

While these facts in themselves are shocking, what’s even more astonishing is that the IOC has so far refused to put worker rights standards into Olympics supply chain contracts. The IOC is the organiser of the world's biggest sporting event, and although it imposes a range of strict conditions on licensees, these apparently do not include requirements to respect fundamental labour standards. This seems to fly in the face of the corporate social responsibility efforts being undertaken in practically every other facet of the textile and clothing industry.

It’s not the first time the IOC has been pulled up over labour abuse among companies making products for the Games – and it’s unlike to be the last either. In 2004 the International Trade Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) published a 77-page report claiming labour violations by leading international sporting goods manufacturers linked to the Athens Olympics, and hundreds of garment workers across Asia protested against low wages and long working hours in sportswear factories making clothing and equipment for companies linked to the Olympic Games.

Licensing from the Beijing Games is expected to generate some US$70m in income; is it really too much to expect that Olympics-related merchandise is made in the spirit of fair competition too?

Child labour found in Olympic Games factories


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