Here Rio Goes Again: Evictions and Abuses Reported Ahead of Olympics

A new report details the ways families have been forced out of the city.
Dec 8, 2015·
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

Next August, more than 10,000 athletes from all over the world will descend on Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Olympics. But it seems the international competitors with gold-medal ambitions will be taking the places of thousands of Brazilian families who have been forced out of the city.

That’s the sobering claim of a report released on Tuesday as part of a campaign from Switzerland-based children’s rights group Terre des Hommes International Federation. The report outlines what its authors say are a series of Olympics-related human rights violations including “the most violent form of disrespect of housing rights in the city.”

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An estimated 22,059 families—or about 77,206 people—have been removed from Rio within the last six years, according to City Hall data compiled in the report. Of those who were forced from their homes, the report’s authors estimate that 4,120 families have been evicted from the city, and an additional 2,486 are threatened with removal due to reasons either directly or indirectly related to the Olympics.

Four communities encompassing 349 families were removed in early 2013 to make room for transportation corridors between the city’s international airport and the lagoon-surrounded Barra da Tijuca beach neighborhood, where many of the Olympic games are set to take place, according to the report. It also details about a dozen other instances of neighborhoods demolished to make room for stadiums, roads, housing, and venues.

In many cases, the advocates allege, the displaced and often low-income families were either forced to relocate into housing facilities miles away, sometimes without a contract, or accept “negligible compensation for the relocation,” the authors wrote. They noted that the city’s human rights violations, particularly among its most economically disadvantaged residents, didn’t originate with the Olympics. Instead, the sporting event worsened existing conditions in a city that has long struggled with high rates of poverty, economic inequality, and violence and homicide.

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The city government denied the allegations, telling The Guardian that the vast majority of displacements were not a result of the Olympics or the World Cup, which was held last year in Rio. A spokesperson said that nearly three-quarters of families who moved away from the city were fleeing areas at risk of flooding and landslides, with others seeking neighborhoods closer to public transportation.

The report comes as the city has faced backlash for sewage- and bacteria-infested waters that sickened 13 U.S. rowers in August. Last week, The Associated Press reported that the pollution isn’t just confined to waterways nearest land—it spreads far offshore and continues to pose a health risk to athletes who will compete in the waters next August.

Rio is far from the first Olympics host city to be accused of human rights violations either before or during the mega sporting event. The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics were plagued by reports of forced evictions, workers’ rights violations, and anti-LGBT discrimination “that caused worldwide revulsion” and incited protests across the city, owing to the country’s antigay laws, according to a report issued this year by Human Rights Watch.

Despite the urging of several human rights organizations, the International Olympic Committee’s host city contract for the 2024 Olympic games, released in September, does not include an explicit human rights protection clause. The Sport and Rights Alliance—of which Amnesty International and Terre des Hommes International Federation are members—called it an “astonishing omission.”