The displacement of locals to make way for major sporting events is becoming routine in Rio de Janeiro.
To make way for renovations, new stadiums, hotels and residences for the 2014 FIFA World Cup that was held in Brazil, about 170,000 people were evicted, forcibly or otherwise.
Some of these evictions started out relatively peacefully, then turned violent. For example, in 2014 police began to evict about 300 residents from an abandoned apartment building. During the eviction a fire broke out, which led to a clash between police and civilians, and a man carrying a baby was hit with a canister of pepper spray.
Rio mayor Eduardo Paes stated that Rio had made an agreement with the owners of 760 demolished residences that the residents could remain in the area; however, those residents claim that they are being told to accept compensation and leave.
Some residents that have been displaced are being moved to sub-standard housing as much as 25 miles away, and are doing so with little notice of the evictions, Party of Socialism and Freedom (PSOL) member Renato Cinco said.
Residents who refuse to leave, will likely be forcibly removed, like most of the residents of Vila Autódromo, near what will be Olympic Park.
The few residents who remain in the favela do so in protest, because they believe that the area where they built their lives will be turned into upscale condominiums where they cannot afford to live, and do not want to see the area destroyed.
The Guardian reports that “[c]ivil society groups say the relocations are motivated by surging land values. As new infrastructure is put in place for the World Cup and Olympics, property prices rise in the surrounding areas.”
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that everybody has the right to an adequate standard of living and housing. However, based on what is happening to Rio residents, it seems that Paes thinks the Olympics are more important than human rights.
Many families who lived in favelas and were forced to move no longer have sources of income because their place of employment has also been demolished, along with the children’s schools. The students are unable to transfer to another school, which is also a human rights violation according to Amnesty International.
“The focus of these games will be a legacy of infrastructure left for Rio,” Paes said. “The Olympics are being done, above all, to change the lives of people of this city for the better.”
The issue with his statement is that infrastructure improvements are not of the utmost importance to Rio residents, especially to those in poverty, who are more concerned with connection to the wastewater system.
Local authorities promised that the $12.4 billion being spent on the Olympics would improve the city.
The Comité Popular, an activist group, is “calling on the International Olympic Committee to pay greater heed to human rights.” They made a video called "Rio 2016: The Exclusion Games", which calls on viewers to demand that Paes and Olympic officials to pay more attention to the human rights of those who are being evicted.
Between $7.2 billion and $10.8 billion was spent on the 2014 FIFA World Cup, roughly equal to the operating costs of Brazil’s welfare program, used by 50 million people. Some of the stadiums that were built or renovated for the Cup have since been abandoned. Many are falling into disrepair, and if they are being used it is infrequently; some stadiums are so expensive to maintain that clubs can cannot afford to play there.
Brazil is not the only country to forcibly evict its residents to make way for a sporting event. For the 2008 Beijing Olympics, about 1.25 million people were evicted.
Brazil’s sports minister told Reuters, “Differently from the World Cup, we are leaving a legacy.” But based on past outcomes, it is uncertain that these promises will come true for Rio residents.
Image via Reuters
Annabelle Orlando is an undergraduate student at the University of Connecticut. She is currently a staff writer for the university newspaper The Daily Campus and majors in journalism and human rights. Twitter @annabelleorland