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The Olympic Charter, last updated 8 July 2011, is a set of rules and guidelines for the organization of the Olympic Games, and for governing the Olympic movement. Adopted by International Olympic Committee (IOC), it is the codification of the fundamental principles, rules and by-laws. French and English are the official languages of the Olympic Charter. If, at any time, there is a discrepancy between versions of the text, the French text prevails.
Throughout the history of the Olympics, the Olympic Charter has often decided the outcome of Olympic controversy. As expressed in its introduction, the Olympic Charter serves 3 main purposes:
- to establish principles and values of Olympism
- to serve as IOC law
- to define the rights and obligations of the 4 main constituents of the Olympic movement: the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Federations and the National Olympic Committees, and the Organizing Committees for the Olympic Games.
Main components 
With its 5 chapters and 61 articles, the Olympic Charter outlines in detail several guidelines and rules. This article highlights and summarizes those items considered most important to governing the Olympic Games, the Olympic movement, and its 3 main constituents: the International Olympic Committee, the International Federations, and the National Olympic Committees.
Chapter 1: The Olympic Movement and its Action 
Article 2: The mission of the IOC is to promote Olympism throughout the world and to lead the Olympic Movement. This includes upholding ethics in sports, encouraging participation in sports, ensuring the Olympic Games take place on a regular period, protecting the Olympic Movement, and encouraging and supporting the development of sport.
Article 6: The Olympic Games are competitions between athletes in individual or team events and not between countries.
Article 8: The Olympic symbol consists of five interlocking rings which, from left to right are blue, yellow, black, green and red.
Chapter 3: The International Federations (IFs) 
Chapter 3 discusses the role of International Federations (IFs) in the Olympic movement. IFs are international non-governmental organizations that administer to sports at the world level and encompass organizations administering such sports at the national level. For each sport that is part of the Olympic Games, an International Federation exists. These IFs work to ensure their sports are developed in a way that agrees with the Olympic Charter and the Olympic spirit. With technical expertise in its particular sport, an IF has control over eligibility for competition as well as details of the venue in which the athletic competition takes place.
Chapter 4: The National Olympic Committees (NOCs) 
Article 28: The mission of the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) is to develop, promote and protect the Olympic Movement in their respective countries. The role of NOCs within each country is to promote the spirit of Olympicism, ensure the observance of the Olympic Charter, and to encourage ethics in and development of sports. They are in charge of their country's representation at the Games, deciding on a host city for the Games, and cooperation with governmental and non-governmental bodies during the Games.
Chapter 5: The Olympic Games 
This chapter addresses the celebration of the Olympic Games, the selection of the host city, the eligibility code for participation in the games, those sports included in the Games, media coverage, publications, and propaganda allowed for the Games.
In addition, Section 3 of this chapter discusses applicable protocol for Olympic functions and events. This includes an outline of use of the Olympic flag, flame, and opening and closing ceremonies.
In the media 
The Olympic Charter is not simply a matter of unenforced policy for the Olympic Games. Throughout history, it has served as guidance for the proceedings of the Games. Below are a few of the most recent examples:
- 2012: The Lebanese judo team at the 2012 London Olympics refused to practice next to the Israeli one, and a makeshift barrier was erected to split their gym into two halves.The two teams were scheduled to use the same gym and mats at London’s new ExCeL center for their final preparations. However, the delegation from Lebanon would not train in view of the Israeli team, and insisted some sort of barrier be placed between them. Organizers accepted the Lebanese coach’s demand to separate the teams, erecting a barrier so that the Lebanese team wouldn’t see the Israeli one.
- 2011 / 2012: Human Rights Watch accused Saudi Arabia of contravening the Olympic Charter by systematically preventing women from practicing sports in the country, and by not allowing Saudi women athletes to take part in the Olympic Games, thus violating the fourth, sixth and seventh fundamental principles of the Charter, which every member of the Olympic Movement is bound to. This came as Anita DeFrantz, chair of the I.O.C.'s Women and Sports Commission, suggested that the country be barred from participating in the Olympics until it agrees to send women athletes to the Games. I.O.C. spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau, however, indicated that the Committee "would not mandate that the Saudis have female representation in London", arguing that "the I.O.C. does not give ultimatums nor deadlines but rather believes that a lot can be achieved through dialogue".
- August 2007: Edward McMillan-Scott, Vice President of the European Parliament, called for a debate on whether athletes should boycott the Beijing Olympics in response to human rights abuses. The continuing evidence of persecution and human rights abuses in China cannot be reconciled with the Olympic Spirit set out in Article 1 of the Olympic Charter which seeks "respect for universal fundamental ethical principles."
- 2 November 2005: Active lobbying against Lord Moynihan in the election of the British Olympic Association (BOA) chairman. The Olympic Charter calls for no government interference in Olympic Association elections. Therefore, the issue is being investigated and if the Sports Minister did mislead Parliament, a resignation will most likely ensue.
- May 2004: Bernard Lagat became a US citizen 3 months before he ran track in Athens and won the silver medal in 2004. The glitch is that he won the medal for Kenya, which does not allow dual citizenship, and the Olympic Charter requires each athlete to be a citizen of the country he or she competes for. Lagat was permitted to retain his medal, but had to wait until 2007 before being eligible to compete in any other international athletics events.
- December 2004: It was discovered that Marion Jones, 5-time medalist of Track & Field at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, may have been on several banned steroids and hormones when she competed. Because the Olympic Charter states that no decision taken at the Olympic Games can be challenged after a period of 3 years after the closing ceremony, Jones could not lose these medals involuntarily except for doping violations. Jones was later stripped of every Olympic medal dating back to September 2000 after admitting that she took performance-enhancing drugs.
Protection of Olympism as a belief 
There has been a suggestion from lawyers that, in the UK, those with a strong belief in Olympism could benefit from protection against discrimination in exactly the same way that followers of Islam, Christianity, Judaism or any other religion are protected.
See also 
- "Ban Urged on Saudi Arabia Over Discrimination", New York Times, 15 February 212
- "Qatar decision to send female athletes to London 2012 increases pressure on Saudi Arabia", Inside the Games, 1 July 2010
- "Hurdles the biggest Olympic barrier for Saudi women", Associated Press, 18 February 2012
- Current text of the Olympic Charter (PDF)
- Olympic Charter 2011 in English 
- July 2007 text of the Olympic Charter (PDF)
- Official Summary of the Olympic Charter
- Search the Olympic Charter