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International Events and Forced Evictions: A Focus on the Olympic Games

Annual Call for Projects 2004


The convening of major international events is becoming increasingly commonplace. Whereas such events were comparatively rare some 30 years ago, now barely a day passes without some city inaugurating a major international gathering. In general, such events can be seen as positive developments in support of mutual understanding among nations and peoples, and are often highly beneficial to the cities and corporations sponsoring them in terms of finance, tourism and image.

In many cases however, steps need to be taken to more appropriately guide the planning linked to the hosting of international events. Indeed, research carried out by the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) has highlighted that cases of forced eviction are often directly linked to the preparation of such events, including the Olympic Games.

In that respect, while the Olympic Games act as a catalyst for peace, dialogue and development, in some instances the preparation of the Games has resulted in people losing their homes, facing increased poverty, vulnerability and insecurity. As such, the social impact of this event often remains neglected. For instance, reports indicate that some 720,000 persons were forcibly evicted in Seoul and Inchon, South Korea, prior to the 1988 Olympic Games, while a further 300,000 persons have reportedly been evicted in Beijing, China in the run-up to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. Such cases of forced eviction are reportedly related to the construction of infrastructure (stadiums, public transport or accommodation for participants), as well as to the process of "beautification" of the host city.

With the Olympic Games as an example, this project will examine the phenomena of forced evictions in relation to the preparation of this event. An impartial and objective research process will identify international human rights law applicable to the different actors involved in the preparation of the Games, such as the host city, the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic sponsors. The research will analyse the legal obligations of these different actors to respect, protect and fulfil the right to adequate housing for everyone, within their respective jurisdictions.

This project will be constructive and collaborative in nature, with the aim of elaborating concrete and collaborative mechanisms designed to prevent, or at least dramatically reduce, the practice of forced evictions prior to future Olympic Games. The research will identify cases of good practice, as well as determine whether the forced evictions carried out are solely related to the Olympic Games or to broader policies in the host city, such as urban development programmes. Ultimately, the project aims at developing concrete policies with the International Olympic Committee, to prevent the occurrence of forced evictions in relation to the Olympic Games.

Overall, the methodology followed will encompass academic research and on-site investigations. Academic research will review the literature on the link between displacement and international events, with a focus on the Olympic Games, as well as the issue of the corporate social responsibility of the various sponsors supporting the Olympics. On-site investigations will be carried out in Beijing (China), Athens (Greece), Sydney (Australia), Atlanta (USA), Barcelona (Spain), and Seoul (South Korea). These visits will assess the phenomena of forced evictions related to the preparation of the Olympic Games, with regard to its scale and impact on the affected communities, as well as examine issues of resettlement and compensation.

The findings of the research will form the basis of a draft report that will be presented at an Expert Workshop where the research findings will be discussed. The report will also be presented to and discussed with relevant actors such as the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

A set of draft guidelines, as well as other proposals on forced evictions and the Olympic Games will be presented at the Workshop and finalised with participant input. Relevant actors, such as the IOC will be involved in the process, including the drafting of the guidelines and other proposals, their presentation at the Expert Workshop, and their finalisation.

Once the report and the guidelines, as well as other relevant proposals are completed, they will be formally launched at a ceremony in Geneva. A series of meetings will also be sought, at that time, with members of the IOC to discuss their implementation.

The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) will coordinate the project, in partnership with different academic institutions and UN bodies. The Graduate Institute of International Studies (GIIS), the University of Geneva School of Architecture, UN-Habitat, the Special Advisor of the UN Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace, the University of Toronto, New York University Law School, the University of Wisconsin and an expert from a large corporation on corporate social responsibility will be involved as partners, contributing to the different stages of the research and bringing their own expertise and networks to the project.

The grant provided by the GIAN for this project totals SFr 250,000

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Project Team

Mr Claude Cahn , Coordinator, Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) .

Prof. Philip Alston , Principal Member, School of Law , New York University (NYU) .

Prof. Rémi Baudoui , Principal Member, Institute of Architecture , University of Geneva (Unige) .

Prof. David Hulchanski , Principal Member, University of Toronto .

Mr Michael Kleiner , Principal Member, State of Geneva , Swiss Confederation .

Mr Scott Leckie , Principal Member, Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) .

Ms Claire Mahon , Principal Member, Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) .

Ms Jessica Marasovic , Principal Member, Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) .

Prof. Kris Olds , Principal Member, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee (UWM) .

Ms Katrien Beeckman , Associated Member, Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) .

Mr Jean Du Plessis , Associated Member, Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) .

Mr Selman Ergüden , Associated Member, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) .

Mr Anton Mifsud-Bonnici , Associated Member, Consultant.

Ms Radhika Satkunanathan , Associated Member, Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) .

Mr Alain Viaro , Associated Member, Graduate Institute of Development Studies (GIDS) .

Ms Nathalie Mivelaz , Former Coordinator, Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) .

Related News

Related Conferences

The Olympic Games and other Mega Events and their Impact on Housing Rights – Media Conference, 5 June 2007; Public Conference, 14 June 2007
While major sports events can act as a catalyst for peace, dialogue and development, in some instances the preparation...
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Research Output

The Olympic Games and Forced Evictions - A Study of Seven Past and Future Host Cities
(available in English only)
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Housing Rights and Forced Evictions in the Olympic Games:City Research Reports
(available in English only)
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The Olympic Games and Forced Evictions: Multi-Stakeholder Guidelines
(available in English, Spanish, Chinese and French)
> more