[URBANTH-L]new report: Fair Play for Housing Rights: Mega-Events, Olympic Games and Housing Rights

Kristopher Olds olds at geography.wisc.edu
Tue Jun 5 05:51:54 EDT 2007

Apologies for cross-listings.  Full details, reports and 
multi-stakeholder guidelines, are all freely available here: 


EMBARGOED until 9.00 a.m. Geneva Time (GMT +1 Hour) Tuesday 5 June 2007

**COHRE and RUIG/GIAN Joint Media Statement**

The Olympic Games have displaced more than two million people in the 
last 20 years

The Olympic Games have displaced more than two million people in the 
last 20 years, disproportionately affecting minorities such as the 
homeless, the poor, Roma and African-Americans, according to a new 
report, /Fair Play for Housing Rights: Mega-Events, Olympic Games and 
Housing Rights/.

Jean du Plessis, Executive Director (a.i.) of the Geneva-based Centre on 
Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), said, "Our research shows that 
little has changed since 1988 when 720,000 people were forcibly 
displaced in Seoul, Korea, in preparation for the Summer Olympic Games. 
It is shocking and entirely unacceptable that 1.25 million people have 
already been displaced in Beijing, in preparation for the 2008 Games, in 
flagrant violation of their right to adequate housing. These figures 
show the extent to which mega-events, such as the Olympic Games, can 
often leave a negative housing legacy for the local population."

A research team, coordinated by COHRE, has spent three years studying 
seven past and future Olympic host cities (Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta, 
Sydney, Athens, Beijing and London) and the impact the Games have had on 
the housing rights of their residents. The project was supported by the 
Geneva International Academic Network (RUIG/GIAN), and was undertaken in 
conjunction with a number of partner organisations.

As a result of this study, COHRE has developed a set of guidelines for 
all stakeholders in future host cities to follow in order to minimise 
the negative impacts arising from mega-events. These /Multi-Stakeholder 
Guidelines on Mega-Events and the Protection and Promotion of Housing 
Rights/ also seek to highlight opportunities for promoting positive 
housing legacies to be enjoyed long after the event has been staged.

The report also addresses the housing impacts of other mega-events such 
as the FIFA World Cup, World Expos, IMF/World Bank Conferences and even 
beauty pageants such as the Miss World and Miss Universe contests. It 
demonstrates that mega-events can both directly and indirectly cause a 
number of housing rights violations and other negative effects. These 
include: forced eviction; displacement; rising housing costs (leading to 
unaffordability of housing); reductions in the provision of social, 
public, and low-cost housing; discrimination against minorities and the 
poor; criminalisation of homelessness; expropriation of private 
property; and lack of transparency and exclusion of local residents from 
participation in decision-making.

Du Plessis said: "No person or community should be forcibly evicted for 
the sake of a sporting event. No-one should be displaced due to a 
cultural celebration. The rich diversity of a community should not be 
hidden, moved or destroyed for the sake of a beauty pageant. It is 
possible (and imperative) for mega-events to be organised without 
forcibly evicting people, without criminalising the homeless and without 
rendering housing unaffordable. COHRE calls on all parties to ensure 
that adequate attention to the housing rights of anyone affected by the 
hosting of such events is mainstreamed into the bidding, selection and 
implementation processes. COHRE also calls on affected communities and 
support organisations to closely monitor these processes, and to take 
action to ensure that no housing rights are violated as a result of 
mega-events. This is important not just for the Olympic Games, but for 
all mega-events."
The principal findings detailed in the /Fair Play for Housing Rights/ 
report are:

    * More than 1.25 million people have already been displaced in
      Beijing, China, in preparation for the 2008 Games. COHRE's
      research reveals that a total of 1.5 million people will be
      displaced from their homes by the time the Games commence in
      August 2008. These figures do not include approximately 400,000
      migrants living 'temporarily' in 171 neighbourhoods in situations
      of extreme insecurity, having come to Beijing due to lack of
      livelihood opportunities in rural areas. Victims of forced
      evictions, their legal representatives and housing rights
      defenders who oppose or challenge evictions are subject to ongoing
      intimidation, harassment and, in some instances, imprisonment for
      their activism.  

    * Already, five years before the Olympic Games are due to be staged
      in London in 2012, over 1,000 people face the threat of
      displacement from their homes, and housing prices are escalating.
      It is possible at this early stage to predict that construction of
      the Olympic venues and facilities in London will
      disproportionately affect a number of groups, in particular the
      poor; low-income earners; residents of public housing; and ethnic
      minorities such as Gypsies and Travellers.

    * Approximately 2,700 Roma were directly affected by the preparation
      and staging of the Olympic Games in Athens. For the Roma, the
      Olympic Games served to aggravate the discrimination and
      marginalisation they already suffered, leading to further
      segregation, violent forced evictions and setbacks in their
      prospects of securing adequate and humane living conditions.

    * The staging of the Olympic Games exacerbated the escalation of
      housing costs in Sydney. Between 1993 (when Sydney was selected as
      the Host City of the 2000 Summer Olympic Games) and 1995, Sydney's
      rents increased by 40 percent, compared with Melbourne, the
      Australian city with the next biggest increase in rents, which was
      only 9.6 percent over the same period.

    * Approximately 30,000 poor residents were displaced from their
      homes in Atlanta by gentrification, the demolition of public
      housing, rental speculation, and urban renewal projects associated
      with the Olympics. Approximately 2,000 public housing units were
      demolished and nearly 6,000 residents displaced. African-Americans
      were disproportionately affected by displacements, housing
      unaffordability, and harassment and arrests of the homeless. The
      criminalisation of homelessness was a key feature of the 1996
      Atlanta Games: 9,000 arrest citations were issued to homeless
      people in Atlanta in 1995 and 1996 as part of the Olympic Games
      'clean up'.

    * The completion of the Olympic Games project in Barcelona resulted
      in the displacement and relocation of 624 families (approximately
      2,500 people). Increases in the prices of housing for rent and
      sale led to a drastic decline in housing affordability, as the
      cumulative increase from 1986 to 1993 was 139 percent for sale
      prices and nearly 145 percent for rentals. There was also a
      drastic decrease in the availability of public housing, with a
      cumulative decrease of 75.92 percent from 1986 to 1992. In areas
      surrounding the Olympic Village communities, between 90 and 100
      percent of the Roma were displaced.

    * In Seoul, South Korea, 720,000 people were forcibly displaced from
      their homes in preparation for the 1988 Summer Games. The urban
      poor and other minorities were disproportionately affected. Street
      peddlers, beggars and the homeless were driven away from the city
      in preparation for the Games.

COHRE's Du Plessis also said, "The negative housing impacts that are 
often inflicted on communities and individuals before, during and after 
mega-events, are not simply undesirable side-effects. In many instances, 
they constitute egregious violations of international human rights law, 
in particular the right to adequate housing. This is in complete 
contradiction to the spirit and ideals of the Olympic Movement, which 
aims to foster peace, solidarity and respect for universal fundamental 
principles. The Olympic Movement has made admirable commitments towards 
creating positive housing legacies in its /Olympic Charter, Code of 
Ethics/, and the /Olympic Movement Agenda 21/. Yet COHRE's research 
indicates that there is unfortunately still a long way to go for the 
Olympic Movement to meet these commitments."

The /Fair Play for Housing Rights/ report calls for the International 
Olympic Committee (IOC) and other mega-event governing bodies to fully 
integrate housing rights considerations into the selection criteria used 
for judging bids to host a mega-event. It also emphasises the need for 
event organisers to incorporate housing rights considerations into all 
aspects of the preparation and staging of the event. The report shows 
that governments, municipal authorities, event organisers, bid 
committees, and even corporate sponsors, athletes and spectators, all 
have a role to play in respecting and upholding the housing rights of 
the local residents.

UN Sports Ambassador, the Kenyan long-distance runner and three times 
champion of the world half marathon Tegla Loroupe, supported COHRE and 
its project partners in launching the /Fair Play for Housing Rights 
/report and the /Multi-Stakeholder Guidelines on Mega-Events and the 
Protection and Promotion of Housing Rights/. Loroupe, said, "As an 
Olympian, I'm proud to have participated in an event that brings people 
of all nationalities and cultures together, and thereby builds community 
spirit and fosters cross-cultural understanding. Such a wonderful event 
should not mean that local people suffer from displacement and 
discrimination -- they too should benefit."

The /Mega-Events, Olympic Games and Housing Rights/ project, coordinated 
by COHRE and supported by RUIG/GIAN, was undertaken in partnership with 
UN-HABITAT, the Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General on Sport for 
Development and Peace, the Graduate Institute of International Studies 
(IUHEI), the Geneva School of Architecture, the University of Toronto, 
the New York University Law School and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The /Fair Play for Housing Rights/ report, the /Multi-Stakeholder 
Guidelines/ and background papers on each of the Olympic Cities studied 
are available online at: www.cohre.org/mega-events

*For interviews or additional information please contact COHRE's Media 
Officer, Radhika Satkunanathan on +41-22-7341028, +61-400-899474 or 
media at cohre.org

Kris Olds
Associate Professor
Department of Geography
University of Wisconsin-Madison
550 N. Park Street, Science Hall
Madison, WI 53706
Tel: 1-608-262-5685
Fax: 1-608-265-3991
Email: kolds at wisc.edu
Email: oldskris at yahoo.com
Web: http://www.geography.wisc.edu/faculty/olds/index.htm*

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