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Human cost of the World Cup
UN human rights expert says thousands of families uprooted by World Cup and Olympics.
Last Modified: 08 Mar 2010 16:59 GMT
Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg, where the World Cup has displaced people from their homes [EPA]

Tens of thousands of people have been forced from their homes or priced out of the housing market as a result of large events such as the football World Cup and the Olympic Games, a United Nations human rights investigator has said.

Raquel Rolnik highlighted the removal of 20,000 people from the Joe Slovo settlement in Johannesburg to make way for rental housing for this year's World Cup in South Africa, saying they were moved to "impoverished areas".

She also cited the uprooting of 35,000 families in New Delhi ahead of the Commonwealth Games, and tenants being shifted from their homes in the next Olympic host city, London.

Rolnik, an independent investigator appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, criticised football's world governing body, Fifa, for failing to ensure that cities staging the World Cup explicitly commit to protecting housing rights.

Unlike the International Olympic Committee, Fifa hasn't responded to repeated demands to make housing rights a key part of the bidding process for hosting the event, she said.

The UN expert acknowledged that the Olympics had brought redevelopment and created subsidised housing in some instances, notably in Athens and Moscow.

Evictions

But sporting mega events often started off with evictions and local authorities rarely allowed the poor to return, Rolnik said in a report.

"Very rarely does the majority of the new housing stock go to those who need it the most," she said on Monday.

She said that host cities gave priority to "beautification over the needs of local residents."

With the Vancouver Olympics, local authorities squeezed housing plans as they ran into financing problems, she added.

In Britain, 400 people were forced out of the Clays Lane estate, which was demolished to make way for the 2012 Olympic Park in East London.

The report noted that several thousand athlete lodgings in London are subsequently meant to be turned into affordable housing.

Rolnik also cited evictions in Barcelona prior to the 2002 Olympic Games, in Beijing before the 2008 Games, and of 35,000 families in New Delhi before this year's Commonwealth Games in October, as well as pressure on the homeless in Atlanta (1996), Seoul (1988) and Vancouver.

She praised Chicago for being the first city to pledge not to evict any people from their home when it bid – unsuccessfully – to host the 2016 Olympic Games.

The Associated Press news agency reported that they had phoned Fifa for a response but had received no reply. 

Source:
Agencies
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