skip to content

A Complex Undertaking

The Olympic Games are often described as one of the world’s biggest peace-time events and they are undoubtedly a complex undertaking. The Vancouver Games will bring together around 5,500 athletes and officials from over 80 National Olympic Committees; seven International Federations running 86 medal events in nine competition venues – equivalent to holding 15 world championships simultaneously; about 25,000 volunteers; 1.6 million ticket holders; approximately 10,000 members of the world’s media; and numerous other Games partners during 16 days of sporting competition.

Add to this the fact that these Games will take place in a host city that has a population of about 600,000 (the Greater Vancouver region has about 2.2 million people), and in Whistler, a mountain municipality, about 123 kilometres away, both of which must continue to serve their permanent residents, and you start to scratch the surface of what the Games entail. decided to ask Gilbert Felli, the IOC’s Executive Director for the Olympic Games, about the IOC’s role in Games management. How are the Games organised?

Gilbert Felli: Following a two-year bid process, during which the bid cities have worked to produce and refine their planning for the Games, the IOC Session will vote and elect a winning city. Shortly afterwards, a local Organising Committee (OCOG) will be formed. It is responsible for actually delivering the Games that were proposed during the bid stage. The local Organising Committee will bring together all of the relevant local stakeholders – governments, sponsors, transport authorities, venue owners, etc. – and work for seven years on preparations to ensure that the Games are staged in the best possible way. The IOC will be there along the way, of course, to help guide, advise and monitor, but each Games is unique because of its local flavour, and this is a result of each Organising Committee approaching the preparation and organisation of the Games in its own unique style. So, how does the IOC actually work with the local Organising Committee?

Gilbert Felli: Our work begins already at the bid stage, where we invite the cities to join our observer programme at the Games, so that they can see firsthand what is involved. We also give them access to a large amount of knowledge that has been built up from previous editions of the Games. This allows them to develop realistic bid plans that are based on practical experience. Once the city is elected, the IOC President then appoints a Coordination Commission - for Vancouver, this was led by René Fasel - whose task is to guide, monitor and advise the organisers as they advance through the preparation period. The Commission is important, as it brings together all the main Olympic stakeholders, such as the athletes, National Olympic Committees, and International Federations, and gives them a chance to interact with the OCOG, as well as bringing great Games experience to the table. We also support the organisers through our transfer of knowledge programme, which includes documentation, observer programmes, Games debriefs, and experts on specific topics, so that they can get the most updated and best information on topics that can sometimes be unique to the Games. Does the IOC take over at Games time?

Gilbert Felli: Not at all. The OCOG continues to run and operate the Games right until the end. The IOC simply brings in part of its administrative team to the host city to support its own operations and the organisers, should they require any assistance. We work in close partnership with our host city friends from the formation of the Organising Committee until it is wound up after the Games. Games time is simply a more intense period of collaboration. It’s always a challenge to organise the Games, but, together, we are able to make it happen and make the citizens of the host city and country proud of what they have achieved.


Vancouver and Whistler will host the XXI Olympic Winter Games from 12 to 28 February 2010 and the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games from 12 to 21 March 2010. The seven winter Olympic sports that will be on show in Vancouver are luge, skiing, skating, ice hockey, biathlon, bobsleigh and curling.

Find out about the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay Presenting Partners


back to top