Human Rights Concerns Arise in Olympic Preparations

The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro are set to start on Aug. 5. With the recent 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Brazil’s government and the International Olympic Committee, also known as the IOC, are receiving a lot of heat for the human rights abuses correlated to the mega sporting events.

Brazilian officials promised that construction for the Olympics “would be conducted with citizen participation in the decision-making process and transparency” and benefit the “most marginalized groups” according to Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. However, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre reports several cases of eviction, forced labor, lack of consultation, child labor and violence against protestors. Government officials deny these negative effects to Olympic preparation.

According to an article on Rio On Watch titled “Vila Autódromo: Target of the Ravenous Appetite of Olympic Construction” by Bernardo Mello, many of the abuses people are facing could have easily been avoided, such as widening road access to the Olympic Park.  

The World Cup and Olympics Popular Committee of Rio de Janeiro, a civil society in Brazil, published a report on human rights abuses related to mega-events in December titled “Rio 2016 Olympics: The Exclusion Games.” According to the report, 4,120 families have lost their homes due to Olympic game construction and 2,486 families may soon face the same threat. The Popular Committee also outlines how relocation leads to the loss of education and access to medical care.

 The IOC’s 2015 Charter identifies the Olympics as a way to unify countries in good sportsmanship.

“The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity,” states the IOC in their 2015 Charter.

In addition to eviction and relocation, preparation for August has also included police violence in poorer areas. According to “Rio 2016 Olympics: The Exclusion Games,” Brazil’s favela pacification programs have targeted and killed homeless children and teens in an attempt to clean up the city streets.

“The main violations against homeless children and adolescents were perpetrated through the compulsory collection of these groups during a procedure that, in Rio de Janeiro, is called Operation Order Shock, created in 2009 by the Mayor Eduardo Paes,” the report stated. “Such government operation was highly intensified in the context of mega-events, as its main goal is to promote ‘street cleansing’ and to prepare the city for the visitors and media visibility.”

The IOC is already trying to improve its reputation. On March 2 they announced the creation of a Refugee Olympic Athlete Team.

“As part of the IOC’s pledge to aid potential elite athletes affected by the worldwide refugee crisis, the [National Olympic Committees] were asked to identify any refugee athlete with the potential to qualify for the Olympic Games Rio 2016. Such candidates could then receive funding from Olympic Solidarity to assist with their preparations and qualification efforts,” stated the official Olympics website.

In addition to a public response to the refugee crisis, the 2016 Olympics is also trying to promote a better reputation with a sustainability certification by the International Organization for Standardization. According to the official Olympic website, the award “ensures that events leave a positive economic, environmental and social legacy, with minimum waste, energy consumption, or strain on local communities.”

Carlos Arthur Nuzman, president of the Rio 2016 organizing committee, added, “We went through a very thorough external audit which certified that we are serious about sustainability and assuming good management practices.”