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Olympic Games/World Cup: the impact of mega-events on the right to adequate housing

GENEVA – “Olympic Games, World Cup, Winter Games and other events of this nature offer great opportunities to reorganize the urban space,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik, this Monday 8 March, during the presentation of her annual report* to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“Cities compete with enthusiasm to be selected to host these mega sporting events and international gatherings, elaborating development or environmental protection projects, but not always the billionaire investments revert in a city that is fairer to its dwellers and with more housing stock.”

Although some positive legacies are evidenced in the housing sector as a result of these events, the negative legacies are disquieting. “I am particularly concerned about the practice of forced evictions, criminalization of homeless persons and informal activities, and the dismantling of informal settlements in the context of mega-events,” Ms. Rolnik said.

The UN independent expert also drew attention to some indirect consequences of mega-event projects, such as escalating rent and property houses, lack of affordability for the low-income population, reduction in the availability of social and low-cost housing, and disproportionate impact in vulnerable groups.

The report entitled ‘The impact of mega-events in the realization of the right to adequate housing” outlines the international human rights framework and obligations relevant to the case, provides an overview of the practices and procedures of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and FIFA, and offer some insights on the role of sponsors, as well as some examples of good and bad practices of host cities and countries.

“The bidding and selection process, as the first stage in the preparation for the games, is a key moment to introduce the necessary standards to ensure that the right to adequate housing will be endorsed by all relevant parties and guaranteed throughout the organization of the event,” noted Ms. Rolnik.

“I urge States to uphold their human rights obligations when organizing mega-events and address some specific recommendations to Governments, the IOC and FIFA,” the UN Special Rapporteur said. “I also suggest that all relevant stakeholders adopt a responsible attitude concerning the impact of the Olympic Games, World Football Cup and similar events on the right to adequate housing, and that they dully consider these consequences at all stages of the event.”

According to the independent expert, national and local authorities must adopt all necessary measures to respect, protect and fulfill the right to adequate housing in the context of mega-events. “With respect to the IOC and FIFA, I advise them to evaluate the bid candidatures against compliance with international standards on the right to adequate housing and to guarantee that only those in conformity with those standards are selected.”

(*)  Full report by the Special Rapporteur on housing: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/13session/A-HRC-13-20.pdf


Raquel Rolnik (Brazil) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context by the United Nations Human Rights Council, in May 2008. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. An architect and urban planner, Rolnik has extensive experience in the area of housing and urban policies.

Learn more about the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/housing/index.htm

For inquiries and media requests, please contact Brenda Vukovic (Tel: +41 22 917 9329 / e-mail: bvukovic@ohchr.org) or Beatrice Quadranti (Tel: +41 22 917 9615 / e-mail: bquadranti@ohchr.org) or write to srhousing@ohchr.org