In the field of arbitration, Tao Jingzhou is a renowned legal professional. Now he faces a new challenge as the arbitrator of sports affairs at the Beijing Games.
Last month, Tao, a partner with the Beijing office of international law firm Jones Day, was appointed by the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) to serve as one of the 12 arbitrators in the court's 2008 Beijing Olympic Games Ad Hoc Division.
Headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland, CAS settles sports-related disputes. It has additional courts in New York City and Sydney.
It was originally conceived by former International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Juan Antonio Samaranch to deal with disputes arising during the Olympics and was fully incorporated into the IOC in 1984.
Since the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, the Ad Hoc Division has been required to settle disputes that arise in the host city from 10 days prior to the the opening ceremony of the Games to their conclusion. Doping cases and refereeing issues also fall within its jurisdiction.
Due to his rich experience in arbitration and his fluency in English and French, Tao was recommended by Professor Pierre Tercier, chairman of the ICC Court of International Arbitration.
"This is a very significant appointment," said Michael Bhler, co-head of the international litigation and arbitration practice at Jones Day.
"The range and depth of his experience makes Tao an ideal candidate for the 2008 Olympic Games CAS Ad Hoc Division. I am confident that he will be a tremendous asset."
Tao sees it as a fresh challenge.
"I was very excited when I came to know that I had been appointed," he said. "The Olympic Games is a grand event for China and I'm very pleased to be so close to it.
"I believe that my experience in common law, civil law and Chinese law, as well as my international arbitration experience, will make an important contribution."
Born in east China's Anhui province, Tao graduated from Peking University Law School and continued studying law at the University of Paris.
Recognized as an expert in arbitration by the international community, Tao has advised on China-related matters since 1985, and has maintained an active practice in China for more than 20 years.
He has advised clients on international legal matters, particularly on the financial, tax, and commercial aspects of trade and investment and related disputes.
He has represented Fortune 500 companies and many major European, Japanese, and American companies in hundreds of transactions in China.
He has also assisted clients with issues such as intellectual property protection, technology transfers, trademark licensing agreements, and international sale of goods.
But as far as the world of sports arbitration is concerned, Tao admits he is still something of a freshman.
"I'm a green hand in the sports arbitration, but since I'm very much familiar with arbitration, the work will be relatively easy," he said.
Since Sydney 2000, each Olympics has seen an average of douzaine cases requiring the awards of three arbitrators. In each case, none of the arbitrators must come from the same country as the top four finishers in the disputed sports event.
Tao is not the first Chinese arbitrator to work for the Ad Hoc Division, but he is already the highest profile and is looking forward to getting stuck in.
"I hope there will be few disputes at the Beijing Games," he said, smiling.
"This kind of sports arbitration requires that the result be given within a 24-hour window, considerably faster than normal, so we have to race against time, which will be a challenge."
Tao has already started brushing up on old cases and says he will undergo specialized training in the next two months.
"If it is interesting, I hope I can work on future Olympics too," he said.
(China Daily/The Olympian June 16, 2008)