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 seg¬ment 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.
COHRE’s study also analyses other mega-events; the Olympic Games being just one example of a mega-event that detri¬mentally affects the housing rights of the local population. There are many different kinds of mega-events: sporting events such as the Olympic or Asian Games; political events such as the IMF/World Bank conferences; or cultural events such as World Expositions. COHRE’s research has shown that these and other types of mega-events also threaten the housing rights of local communities and individuals.
For decades, cultural, sporting and political mega-events have been characterised by these negative housing impacts. Thousands of people have been displaced and forcibly evicted from event sites, and displacements and forced evictions due to the urban redevelopment and gentrification connected to hosting mega-events are also common, as the cost of housing escalates and the city’s stock of social and low cost housing diminishes.
For example, COHRE’s research shows that in relation to cultural events such as World Fairs: 18,000 people were evicted from the site of the Shanghai 2010 World Expo and at least 400,000 people have been relocated from nearby parts of the city owing to related urban development; 1,000 homes were destroyed in shantytowns in Abuja for the 2002 Miss World Beauty Pageant; 180,000 people (30,000 families) were evicted in Santo Domingo for the 1992 500th Columbus Anniversary; 5,000 people were evicted in Bangkok for the 1991 Miss Universe Beauty Pageant; between 1,400 and 3,000 people were evicted in Brisbane as a consequence of the 1988 Expo; between 1,000 and 2,000 units of low income housing were lost in Vancouver as a consequence of the 1986 World’s Fair; and 1,500 tenants were evicted in Knoxville as a result of the 1982 World’s Fair.
Political events have also given rise to negative housing impacts: 42 families were violently evicted in Lapu-Lapu City for the 2006 ASEAN Summit; 2,000 people were evicted from slums in Bangkok for the 1991 IMF/World Bank Conference; 1,200 slum
dwelling families were evicted in Seoul for the 1985 IMF/World Bank Conference; and 400 families were evicted in Manila for the 1976 IMF/World Bank Conference. In relation to sporting events other than the Olympic Games, one striking example is the approximately 300,000 people who have been evicted, to date, in New Delhi for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Discrimination and harassment of the vulnerable members of society is a common feature of all types of mega-events: Roma were particularly subjected to harassment and eviction in Patras during the 2006 Cultural Capital of Europe celebra¬tions; the tents of homeless people were removed by private security guards and police officers in Osaka for the 2006 World Rose Convention; homeless people were rounded up and institutionalised in Abuja for the 2002 Miss World Beauty Pageant; 300 homeless were ‘cleaned up’ from Osaka for the 2002 FIFA World Cup; homeless people, beggars and other ‘undesirables’ were banned from sleeping and doing business in Bangkok for the 1998 Asian Games; and homeless people were displaced in Chicago for the 1994 World Cup.
Yet the news is not always bad – one can also see developments in the willingness of Olympic Games Host Cities to embrace sus¬tainability and to take steps to promote positive housing legacies. In Sydney, for example, the government was pressured into instituting a protocol to ensure that homeless people would not be targeted for removal during the Olympic Games. Some cities have made provision for post event use of athletes’ accommodation as affordable housing. This report identifies and details these and other impacts and opportunities in the seven cities hosting the Summer Olympiads from 1988 to 2012.
Primarily through the prism of the Olympic Games, this report studies mega-events and the impacts they have had on housing conditions in the host cities, and demonstrates that abuses such as those outlined above will stop only when the consideration of housing issues is integrated into every stage of mega-event planning and hosting. Given the nature and scale of the possible negative side effects, it is important that future cities considering bidding for and hosting a mega-event like the Olympic Games take proper precautions to prevent similar violations of housing rights.
Mega-events are regarded as opportunities to unite the community over a sporting or cultural occasion. They are also used as instruments of economic development, modernisation, and opportunities to re-engineer the image of a city. Yet the benefits of this process are rarely shared by all, and the negative impacts are borne by particular segments of society. These negative impacts, before, during and after the event, are not merely undesirable – in many instances they constitute violations of international human rights law, in particular, the right to adequate housing.
The right to adequate housing envisages non-violent displacement only after the exhaustion of all other feasible alterna¬tives and conditional on the satisfaction of a number of important protections; harm must be minimised and local hous¬ing conditions must be continuously improved. Housing rights are protected under numerous international instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and regional human rights treaties, and have been widely recognised by the international community.
Preventing violations of the right to adequate housing, including forced evictions, and protecting and promoting the full realisation of housing rights, is the responsibility of numerous stakeholders, including: governments; host cities; event organisers; corporate sponsors; other entities involved in the organisation of mega-events; and even individual participants.
It is for this reason that COHRE has developed a set of Multi-Stakeholder Guidelines on Mega-Events and the Protection and Promotion of Housing Rights. COHRE’s Multi-Stakeholder Guidelines call on all mega-event stakeholders to play their part in promoting and protecting housing rights, so that everyone, including local residents, can reap the benefits of hosting a mega-event. These Guidelines should become a standard for all future mega-events.
This report summarises COHRE’s academic and field research. It begins in Chapter II with an overview of mega-events – what they are, what they aim to achieve, and many examples of the impacts they have had upon housing rights. The report then addresses how mega-events operate within the international human rights framework. International human rights laws and standards provide guidance regarding the obligations that exist and the rights that must be respected at all times, including when preparing or staging a mega-event. Respect for the right to adequate housing is established as a vital protection for the local population during mega-events.
Many mega-events are based on principles similar to those on which the organisation of the Olympic Games is founded, such as the desire to enhance international cooperation and promote understanding. However, these admirable principles cannot be fully achieved if vulnerable groups and individuals are hurt in the process. Mega-events cannot be regarded as achieving their objectives if they are accompanied by forced evictions which violate human rights law, if they impinge on the right to adequate housing (e.g. by making housing unaffordable or social housing less available), or if they are accom¬panied by legislation criminalising homelessness or otherwise targeting minority groups. Rather, the prevention of these practices and the effective protection of the human rights of local inhabitants should be seen as a necessary part of the event hosting process.
Chapter III of this report analyses the Olympic Games’ impact on local housing from an international human rights per¬spective. It considers whether the International Olympic Committee has been addressing this issue in its selection pro¬cedure for Olympic Games Host Cities and whether the Olympic Movement’s governing instruments and internal values require or request the IOC to do so. The research also examines the responsibility of other Olympic stakeholders, including Host Cities Host Governments, as well as Olympic sponsors and other Olympics-related entities, to uphold the local popu¬lation’s housing rights.
COHRE took the Olympic Games as a case study because forced evictions, discrimination against racial minorities, target¬ing of homeless persons, and the many other effects we noted are in complete contradiction to the very spirit and ideals of the Olympic Movement, which aims to foster peace, solidarity and respect for universal fundamental principles. In recent times, there has been significant progress made within the Olympic Movement to understand the various implications of the Olympic Games, including the long term legacies created by the staging of this event. Increasing emphasis on the need for the Olympic Games to promote sustainable development and leave a positive post-Olympic legacy demonstrates how the Olympic Movement and the IOC are beginning to focus on addressing these concerns. This report urges the IOC to go one step further, by fully integrating housing concerns into every stage of the process; including when selecting a Host City, and when planning and preparing to stage the Olympic Games.
Chapter IV includes detailed studies of seven past and future Olympic Games Host Cities (Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, Athens, Beijing and London). Field research in these cities assessed how housing conditions and rights have been (or are being) affected in the preparations for the Olympic Games. The on-site research and factfinding missions included assessments of the phenomena of forced evictions related to the preparations for the Olympic Games, including their scale and the communities affected, and whether there was adequate resettlement and compensation provided, along with issues such as escalations in housing costs, reductions in public housing, discrimination against minorities and the lack of effective community participa¬tion. Based on these assessments, this Chapter attempts to identify best practices. It summarises the experiences of housing rights activists, local residents, Olympic authorities and other stakeholders in each of these cities.
The major outcome of the COHRE Mega-Events, Olympic Games and Housing Rights project is a set of Multi-Stakeholder Guidelines on Mega-Events and the Protection and Promotion of Housing Rights. By following COHRE’s Multi-Stakeholder Guidelines, it is hoped that the organisation of future events can be conducted in a manner that minimises the negative impacts on housing rights and ensures that mega-events contribute to a positive housing legacy.
COHRE believes that approaching the housing impact of hosting the Olympic Games and other mega-events from a hous¬ing rights perspective can significantly advance the achievement of the Olympic Movement’s principles and commitments (as well as those of other mega-events), while also adequately protecting the housing rights of the local population.
Mega-event host cities must focus on how to mitigate negative housing impacts. They must also adopt concrete and prac¬tical measures to promote the right to housing. Approaching housing issues from the perspective of the right to adequate housing can assist in identifying truly positive legacies, where the benefits are equitably dispersed among all individuals and groups in society, including the most vulnerable and marginalised.
Ultimately, this project seeks to transform the planning and convening of the Olympic Games and other mega-events into proc¬esses that clearly promote and protect the local populations’ housing rights. While the relationship between a country’s human rights record and the awarding of the Olympic Games has been raised numerous times before, rarely has the planning process leading up the Olympic Games event itself been treated as a vehicle for improving the protection of human rights. This publica¬tion concludes with an analysis of examples of best practices and opportunities which are open to the members of the Olympic Movement and those associated with other mega-events for protecting and promoting housing rights.
This publication is designed to be one part of an ongoing focus on housing rights and the Olympic Games and other mega-events. COHRE has developed a dedicated website to continue its examination of this issue and to provide informa¬tion and resources to others who are similarly interested. It is hoped that this will become a valuable resource for housing rights activists, governments and private entities involved in planning and hosting mega-events, and for members of the Olympic Movement and other hallmark event organisers. The website, www.cohre.org/mega-events, will be developed to contain background information relevant to this report (including the background papers on each of the Olympic Host Cities featured in this report), as well as a bibliography of various research material.
Finally, it must be noted that this report is by no means exhaustive, nor could it be. Rather, it seeks to use case studies of certain mega-events and demonstrate the impact these events have had on housing rights of the local communities.
COHRE’s report demonstrates that the link between mega-events and adverse housing impacts is so clear and so consist¬ent that housing concerns can no longer be ignored when these events are planned and staged. Housing concerns must be fully integrated into all aspects of the deliberations and preparations associated with staging mega-events.