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Brazil: Olympics, sport and inequality

August 2012

London handed the Olympic flag to Rio, the host of the 2016 games, at the Olympic closing ceremony on Sunday 12 August. But every day in Brazil, thousands of people are seeing their rights violated as a consequence of the 2016 games.

Brazil is a growing country, nobody doubts it. But this growth is not bringing an end to inequality and this is an issue that nobody wants to talk about.

Sport and inequality

'Brazil is losing a unique opportunity to use these events to build a model of development that is more equal.'

The rights of thousands of people in Brazil are being violated as a consequence of the works being carried out for two major sporting events - the football World Cup, which is being held in Brazil in 2014, and the Olympics, which are being held in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

'The local reality clearly contrasts with the ideology that is seen outside Brazil saying that we are a rich country, developed, that we have won the battle against poverty. 

'In the more developed urban areas like Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro we continue to encounter a great inequality and violations of human rights', explains Julia Esther Castro, coordinator of Christian Aid partner PAD (Process of Dialogue and Networking)  - a collaboration of international agencies who work in Brazil.

Ana Cernov, who works for Christian Aid in Brazil, says, 'Brazil is losing a unique opportunity to use these events to build a model of development that is more equal.

'We are giving a huge amount of public resources to fund these events but they are only guaranteed to bring gains for the private sector.

'The work is not being accompanied by public policies aimed at reducing the levels of poverty and vulnerability.'

Housing deficit

In a country with a housing deficit of 5.5 million, and 15 million homes that don't meet basic living standards, the waste of these public funds is an affront.

The role of the private sector in particular is generating much debate - it is becoming increasingly evident that the public sector is taking on the costs of the games, but the private sector is gaining from them.

Private sector

In an open violation of legislation, the private sector is approving concessions, accepting donations and going ahead with building operations without considering the public interest.

They also do not take into account social priorities, workers' rights or the environment. They are proclaiming 'institutional exceptions' for these violations, using the excuse that they are taking forward these major events, which need exceptional measures, without respecting valid legislation.

Violation of rights

The rights of citizens are being systematically violated in the venue cities of the World Cup and Olympics.

The Popular Movement for the World Cup and Olympics estimate that more than 170,000 people will be evacuated from their homes due to the works. Indeed, millions of city-dwellers are being prevented from accessing information and participating in discussions about decisions that affect them.

Government authorities, like the private companies and big corporations, are choosing to ignore their public responsibilities.

Legacy of the games

The legacy of these big events is currently at risk of being dramatic - in the wrong way. Neighbourhoods will disappear, there'll be an increase in urban inequality and the environment will deteriorate.

In short, there may be misery for many while only benefitting a few.

Fighting for their rights

However, the populations in affected areas are not resigned and have formed popular Olympic and World Cup committees to discuss how these events should be run.

Trade unions, defenders of human rights, student groups, popular movements and many others have united to demand respect and to highlight what is actually happening.

They are not giving up without a fight because no big event can justify the violation of human rights in any part of the world.

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Read more

Photo gallery:  How sport can be a worldwide force for good

Article: The real Brazil - the inequality behind the statistics 

Article:  How the World Cup brought hope to South Africa


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