Rio 2016: The Exclusion Games

The fourth edition of the ‘Mega-events and Human Rights violations in Rio de Janeiro Dossier’, launched at the same time as the executive board of the IOC meets in Lausanne to discuss the implementation of the Agenda 2020, shows that violations of housing, working and children’s rights among others make this far from the “Inclusion Games” promised by International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach.

“The IOC should ensure that the 2016 Summer Olympics do not cause or exacerbate human and child rights abuses in Rio. It is time that the IOC lives up to the values declared in the Olympic Charter.” said Ignacio Parker, Secretary General of Terre des Hommes. Besides many other topics, the Dossier reveals human rights violations in terms of housing by reporting on the fact that many disadvantaged communities have been violently removed to make space for Olympic infrastructure. The Popular Committee estimates that at least 4,120 families have already been evicted from their homes and 2,486 are still being threatened with removal. The majority of evictions take place in areas where the real estate is very highly valued. The housing that is offered as an alternative is mostly on the outskirts of Rio, sometimes up to 60km from their original communities and with questionable infrastructure. 

In the name of public security, Rio de Janeiro has put a lot of effort into security measures, especially in the so-called “pacifications”, which are military invasions and occupations of favelas. These interventions have caused many deaths, police violence and other human rights violations especially against Afro-Brazilians during the operations and also in the “pacified” favelas.

Concerning working conditions, the Dossier highlights repression measures by the city administration against informal street vendors, caused by the imposed marketing exclusivity of some companies. A serious case of human rights violation was reported by the police in one of the construction companies building the Olympic Village: 11 workers from different Brazilian states had to work in conditions similar to slavery.

Regarding public transport, the Popular Committee shows that the large investments made in the transport system are very unequally distributed and only benefit a small part of the population. Beyond that, they focus on improving the transport within the rich parts of the city and even cutting some connections to poorer areas.

Two main child right violations have occurred in the context of recent Mega Sporting Events in Brazil: police and army violence (especially during the “pacification operations”) and evictions. During the FIFA World Cup, the help line ‘Disque Denúncia’ registered 1,658 more calls on the violations of child rights than in the respective month of the year before, which registered 9,753 calls in total. In order to “clean” the tourist sites, in one example, children and youth living on the street were evicted. Some disappeared without their peers knowing where they went; others were brought to educational units (DEGASE) which are built for young offenders. Those who came back from these units reported iolence and humiliation. Due to the evictions, many children are no longer able to go to school, they could become victims of exploitation, child labour and sexual violence. They lose access to education, health and other vital social services.

Conclusions

The Dossier closes with 16 requests by the Popular Committee, including the end of forced removals, end of harassment towards street vendors, sport as education, health and not just business, demilitarization of the police, end of ‘street cleansing’ of street children and adolescents, among many others. 

Policies adopted by the IOC have the potential to prevent and respond appropriately to the risks posed to children before, during and after the Olympic Games. Terre des Hommes, which has contributed to the Dossier with the chapter on ‘Children and Adolescents’ in collaboration with the University of Dundee, calls the IOC to ensure and respect the rights of children and families before, during and after the Rio Olympics in 2016:

  • Very concretely, Terre des Hommes urges the IOC to intervene, at a minimum, to halt the ongoing forced evictions connected to the Olympics and prevent the possible police violence and “cleansing” of children in street situation before the Olympics. 
  • On a policy level, the IOC is requested to: issue a public human rights commitment and policy; have in place human rights capacity; ensure access to remedy; undertake human rights due diligence; conduct monitoring of all stages of the Games; and enable external independent monitoring.
  • In order to prevent future violations at other events, Terre des Hommes asks the IOC to include human rights as part of the decision for awarding any Games and as explicit obligations in Host City Contracts.
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