Few events manage to en-capture the attention of the planet as much as the Olympics do. Hundreds of thousands of people travel the globe and spend ludicrous amounts of money often just to watch one race, be it rowing or hurdles or cycling. The Olympic games only come around once every four years and so for many people the chance to go to the games is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Not only do spectators get to travel to a new corner of the world, they also get to relish in the talents of some of the best athletes to presently walk the Earth.
Grand stadiums can change the hosting city’s skyline forever; a relic of the time, effort, and public money that has been invested into the world-class event. It can be easy to get swept up in the grandeur of the games and to forget the sacrifices that have been made in order for such sporting history to be made.
The Guardian recently published an article about the effect the 2016 Rio Olympics have had on the people who reside so close to the new Olympic park. The article – written by Jonathan Watts – unearthed the harsh price that some Brazilian residents were paying in exchange for two weeks of international sportsmanship.
Rio is famed for its favelas which are a symbol of the willpower held by the poorest residents in order to build and create an affordable and seemingly complex way of living; binding communities in an unexampled manor. Yet it seems that the very thing that put Rio on the map – aside from its tropical climate and sandy beaches – is being mercilessly torn down in order to pave the way for glamorous new stadiums to host the games in.
One of the women featured in Watts’ article was Jane Nascimento de Oliveira. She is resisting the compensation being offered to her for her to move out of her favela, saying, “My aim is to make the government look at themselves and to show humility to the people.”*
Rio 2016 isn’t the first Olympic game that has displaced residents who reside where the games are to be hosted; London 2012 demolished an entire estate in East London so that the park could be built. In exchange for two and a half weeks of world-class sport, some 400 people were lured out of homes they had been living in for over a decade – each resident receiving a few thousand pounds in government compensation – into temporary accommodation in areas of London they did not know.
Rio has a haunting similarity. Those who refuse to move are being bought out by the government who are so desperate to tear down the favelas that they’re willing to fork out millions in compensation in order to move people on. Communities that have taken years to establish are being destroyed with the stroke of a contractor’s pen.
It’s not just about the people; this ideology of destroying land and building sparkly new stadiums every four years in a new city is unsustainable for the Earth and for the animals we share it with. Why can’t hosting cities use existing sporting venues for the games? They would work just as good, the environment would be spared, people would still have their homes and the government would save masses of money in the long run.
Whilst I’m all for the Olympics – what with the games uniting nations in the name of sport, promoting fitness and encouraging millions of people to get involved in something new – I’m not entirely sure it means anything if so many people are having their livelihoods wrecked for the sake of 17 days of competition. Behind the greatest show on Earth is a very grim reality that is masked by the glitz, glamour and glory of winning a medal. The Olympics can not only make or break an athlete, they can make or break a city too.
*Original Guardian article/source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/19/2016-olympics-rio-de-janeiro-brazil-destruction
Featured image: Renface