Sometimes, quite a bit.  Did you know that in Beijing alone, over 1.25 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes to make way for Olympics-related development in the lead-up to the 2008 Games?  Organizations like the Center on Housing Rights & Evictions have long documented some of the most egregious abuses, noting that the pattern of displacement has repeated itself in most of the cities that have hosted major global sporting events.  Not surprisingly, poor communities and ethnic minorities often pay the heaviest price (see South Africa during the 2010 World Cup and India during the 2010 Commonwealth Games for more recent examples).

Here at WITNESS, we started working on this issue in Brazil last year, when activists were beginning to organize their strategies to resist the onslaught of evictions planned around 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics.  In the 12 cities chosen to host events across Brazil, thousands of families are thought to be at risk of losing their homes to make way for stadiums, roads, tourist facilities and other related infrastructure.  Many have already been evicted without prior notice, fair compensation, or participation in the resettlement process (see firsthand video testimonies from communities in Rio de Janeiro here).

We caught up with several activists fighting evictions at a seminar coordinated last November by the University of São Paulo and the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Raquel Rolnik.  Today, we’re launching a new series of videos featuring interviews with activists from São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Amazonas, Rio Grande do Sul, and Ceará.  Here’s the first question we asked them – what is a forced eviction?  Watch what they responded below and then browse through this playlist for the full interviews (in Portuguese only but English captions forthcoming).



**A heartfelt thank you to the amazing volunteers that worked on shooting and editing this series: Livia Monte and Andriéllen Andrade!

5 thoughts on “What do the World Cup and Olympics Have to do with Human Rights Violations?

  1. I\’ll immediately cutlch your rss as I can not find your e-mail subscription link or e-newsletter service. Do you have any? Please allow me know so that I may just subscribe. Thanks.

  2. Having lived in a city that hosted the Olympic Games I can say that there is no benefit to the vast majority of citizens of that city or country. It is true some jobs come with the hosting of the Games but these are not permanent jobs. At most, they exist for 5 years and then disappear.

    Given the current global financial chaos how relevant is the Olympic Games given the turmoil and devastation they leave behind. Yes, beautifully designed buildings get left behind but these are underutilized public structures and unlike schools and hospitals they benefit so few.

    Seeking scraps from the tables of the IOC elite is not worth spending time over. The Olympics themselves are just another example of corporatism gone very very bad. Unfortunately, it serves the corporate elites to the detriment of many many others.

    The only real stand to take against the Olympics is to revolt against it entirely.

    Recently in Vancouver we find a year after the Games that our government hid another $188 million public treasury handout to the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee. We were told that no public money would be used to fund the operations of the Games. In IOC financing rules the local organizing committees must separate the costs of operating the Games from the cost of building infrastructure and venues.

    Meanwhile our school districts and hospitals have been subjected to unrealistic budget constraints that make access to these public institutions and their services more difficult for many citizens.

    Our city has the largest number of children living in poverty in Canada and as of last month had the lowest minimum wage in Canada.

    Just who benefits from hosting the Olympic Games?

    In our city we hear nothing of the displacements of citizens of Rio nor any other concerns that residents of that city have. We do get news about the military and police fighting crime though.

    You must remember that the “playbook” for hosting the Games has strategies for handling all complaints, protests and complaints. What Rio is experiencing is not unique. Every city and country goes through the same scenerio just in different magnitudes.

    My sincere sympathy for all host cities.

    For those whose cities are contemplating hosting the Games get organized at the very beginning and don’t think you can negotiate or leverage for better conditions for those less fortunate.

    Bread not circuses.

    1. Phil, thanks so much for sharing your experience on this. Your account is one we hear over and over from people that live in former host cities to these major sporting events. The costs are socialized, the benefits are privatized, and those with the shorter end of the stick often find themselves in even harder circumstances, especially after egregious abuses like forced evictions. The debate needs to widen, more voices need to be included, and more people need to participate in the decision-making about who pays the bill and who takes home the profits. Using video to highlight firsthand testimonies and spark more meaningful conversation around this issue is something we hope to contribute to with this campaign… Stay tuned, thanks for your words! Priscila

  3. Very interesting. Also particularly relevant when in discussion over the London 2012 Olympics, sponsored by DOW Chemical who are responsible for multiple human rights abuses namely in Bhopal and Nicaragua.
    The stadium for the London games has been built on a previously contaminated site that has swiftly been cleaned up whilst the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal still stands abandoned and heavily contaminated 27 years later.
    The people of Bhopal are forced to drink contaminated water that has leaked from the site into the ground water and many of the survivors and two generations of their children are desperately ill, damaged both physically and psychologically. A name that is well-known for these crimes should not be allowed to partner the Olympics or blatantly advertise their company whilst other across the world are forced to suffer so horrendously by their actions.

    1. Jade – completely agree with you, thanks for bringing this up. Accountability for corporate wrongdoing needs to get much stronger. Also, sponsors of these major sporting events can and should do a much better job of making sure their brands aren’t associated with human rights abuses. Has there been any advocacy around Dow and sponsorship of London Games? From our end, I think one of the most important things we can do is make sure that the voices of people that are being impacted are heard in the spaces where those responsible can be held accountable. Last Friday in Rio, our partners managed to deliver a letter to the IOC and open up space for Antonieta, forcibly evicted by local authorities in May, to tell her story (just blogged about it yesterday). Just a start, but a great way to start broadening the discussion on costs/benefits. Stay tuned, thanks for your words! Priscila

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