The Olympic Games and Forced Evictions - A Study of Seven Past and Future Host Cities
International Events and Forced Evictions: A Focus on the Olympic Games
KeywordsAthens - Atlanta - Barcelona - Beijing - Housing Rights - Human Rights - London - Olympic Games - Seoul - Sydney
News reports and anecdotal evidence have long indicated that, in addition to the positive effects that the Olympic Games and other mega-events can have on an urban space, they can also diminish the enjoyment of housing rights. Poor and homeless people, marginalised ethnic minorities, or simply those in the way of development related to the mega-event, have been forced from their homes or living spaces – or even forced from the city. Often the net impact of hosting the Olympic Games or similar mega-events is to permanently place housing beyond the financial means of a significant segment
of society. To date, however, this aspect of Olympic development has not been systematically documented. This report – the result of three years of intensive research by the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) and partners – is an effort to fill this gap.
In Seoul, 720,000 people were forcibly evicted from their homes in preparation for the Olympic Games in 1988. In Barcelona, housing became so unaffordable as a result of the Olympic Games that low income earners were forced to leave the city. In Atlanta 9,000 arrest citations were issued to homeless people (mostly African-Americans) as part of an Olympics-inspired campaign to ‘clean the streets and approximately 30,000 people were displaced bij Olympics-related gentrification and development’. In Athens, hundreds of Roma were displaced under the pretext of Olympics-related preparations. In the lead up to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, COHRE estinates that over 1.25 million people already have been displaced due to Olympics-related urban redevelopment, with at least another quarter of a million displacements expected in the year prior to the staging of the event. In London, housing for 1,000 people is already under threat of demolition, over five years before the Olympic Games are due to be held.
COHRE research has established that the Olympic Games and other mega-events are often catalysts for redevelopment entailing massive displacements and reductions in low cost and social housing stock, all of which result in a significant decrease in housing affordability. In addition, specific legislation is often concurrently introduced, for example to allow for speedy expropriations of property or to criminalise homelessness. These factors all give rise to housing impacts which disproportionately affect the most vulnerable and marginalised members of the community. Moreover, there is often little or no participation of local residents in the decision making processes for mega-events.
Fair Play for Housing Rights
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The Olympic Games and other Mega Events and their Impact on Housing Rights – Media Conference, 5 June 2007; Public Conference, 14 June 2007
While major sports events can act as a catalyst for peace, dialogue and development, in some instances the preparation...