Addressing Internal Displacement from International Sporting Events

By Meredith Giel and Lauren Webber

The Issue

Promising emerging markets, desirable population demographics, and wealth in natural resources distinguish Brazil as an influential economy of the 21st century.(1) In recent years, Brazil has avidly sought out further opportunities for cooperation in foreign trade, investment and especially infrastructure development. This has led to Brazil playing host to the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics.

Sports are an unusual topic in the narratives of global and regional scales of political geography. However, Brazil winning the bid for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympics present themselves as the perfect opportunities to analyze the significance and impact which these mega-sporting events have on political, social, economic, and geographic situations. Accounts of Development-Induced Displacement and Resettlement (DIDR) and vast human rights violations performed in the name of ‘sports’ by the Brazilian government are a black eye on this emerging, prosperous economy.(2)

The Right to Property, also known as the right to protection of one’s property, is enshrined in Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Despite this, every year approximately 15 million people are displaced as a result of major development projects.(3) A large number are increasingly being displaced in preparation for the two sporting events coming to Rio in the next few years. The forced eviction of over a million families fosters further inequality and extreme poverty for a substantial portion of favela dwellers in Rio de Janeiro. Recent gentrification initiatives would affect over 260,000 households and relocate about 13,000 families in the upcoming year.(4)

Rapid urbanization is one of the main causes of forced resettlement, especially in a high population density country such as Brazil. In October 2009, Rio de Janeiro began preparations to host the 2016 Olympic Games. Many of the residents were euphoric.

They believed that the urban expansion projects and the transformation of the existing favelas to ‘safe and clean’ areas could make Rio a shining star on the international stage. However, not all residents share this sentiment. Many citizens living in the favelas openly oppose this as they do not believe that they are being treated fairly. Those being displaced lack effective and sufficient resettlement assistance when their neighbourhoods experience demolition.

A key social problem in Rio, associated with the importance of the favelas, is the lack of initiative or improvement in the distribution of income.(5) Over the last century of urbanization in Brazil, vast wealth disparities pushed thousands of migrants to the cities.(6) This led to the development of favelas and they continued to expand and mature into massive, makeshift, informal housing slums, side by side with some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the world.(7)

A Proposed Strategy

To address the severe social problems being caused by the development projects associated with the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympics, we propose the creation of a volunteer-based, non-profit, non-partisan, advocacy organization called Students Against Internal Displacement (SAID) International. SAID International would seek to empower students from all over the world and encourage them to publicly, peacefully, and democratically oppose the internal displacement which results in nations hosting international sporting events.

SAID International would embark on numerous campaigns targeting many different international sporting events. To start, SAID International would launch a campaign to address the recent internal displacement in Brazil.

As the International Olympic Committee’s Charter currently lacks any mention of internal displacement, SAID International would petition the IOC to make an amendment to the charter making it mandatory that host cities consider and address any potential displacement. The amendment should ensure that host cities both protect and promote the fundamental freedoms and rights of all citizens regardless of their status.

It is important for SAID International to foster connections, relationships, and partnerships with organizations such as local hometown associations, all levels of government in Brazil, Olympic sponsors who may not necessarily want their brand associated with displacement and organizations such as Rooting 4 the Home Team which are already taking action against this displacement.

In pursuit of this campaign, SAID International would use a variety of different project tools to foster dialogue:

  • social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter
  • a website
  • an online petition to send to the International Olympic Committee
  • a postcard campaign

This organization would be volunteer run and rely on the use of free social media platforms and the internet for distribution, so there would not be a need for high levels of funding. Also, as this organization would be largely student run, different chapters could obtain society/club funding from post-secondary Students Unions in order to cover the costs of things such as informational campaign nights, postcard printing and distribution.


Works Cited

  2. Ronquillo, Elissa Josefina, “The 2014 Brazilian World Cup: Consequences and Legacies” (2012). Scripps Senior     Theses.Paper 71. Pg 1.
  3. Terminski, Bogumil. “Development-Induced Displacement and Human Security: A Very Short Introduction.” Accessed April 10, 2013.
  4. Baena, Victoria. “Favelas in the Spotlight Transforming the Slums of Rio De Janeiro.” Harvard International Review (Spring 2011): Pg. 37.
  5. Cataldo, Fabian. “New Forms of Citizenship and Socio-Political Inclusion: Accessing Antiretroviral Therapy in a Rio de Janeiro Favela.” Sociology of Health & Illness 30, no. 6 (2008): 900-12.
  6. Ronquillo, Elissa Josefina, “The 2014 Brazilian World Cup: Consequences and Legacies” (2012). Scripps Senior Theses.Paper 71. Pg. 1.
  7. Cataldo, Fabian. “New Forms of Citizenship and Socio-Political Inclusion: Accessing Antiretroviral Therapy in a Rio de Janeiro Favela.” Sociology of Health & Illness 30, no. 6 (2008): Pg. 903.

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