News24

FIFA SWC transparency low

2010-03-08 21:42

Geneva - Large-scale sports events offer the opportunity to enhance the right to housing by developing a city, but they can also hurt vulnerable populations, a United Nations human rights expert said on Monday.

"Mega-events... have a long term impact on reshaping a city," Raquel Rolnik, the UN special expert on housing, told reporters in Geneva.

She said that while this could be used for good, to develop and improve conditions, in many cases rents were raised, the poor were evicted from their living quarters and availability of social and low-cost housing was reduced.

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

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 told journalists.

The International Olympic Committee has included clauses on adequate housing in the bid proposals since 2006, following a dialogue with her office, Rolnik said.

However, she said her office has been ignored by FIFA, the governing body of world football, and the organisation should be "more transparent."

South Africa, which hosts the upcoming World Cup, has "left behind" its commitments to ensure the right to housing in the context of the game, Rolnik charged.

"All the commitments for affordable housing were left behind and were not prioritised," as 2010 World Cup stadium projects fell behind schedule, said Rolnik.

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.

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.

Last week, she presented her finding on mega events, and the right to housing in general, to the UN Human Rights Council. Among other findings, Rolnik said she was concerned about homelessness in the United States.

SAPA