Samantha Ruggiero

Is it possible for a city’s government to host an international sporting event without sacrificing the social and political rights of its own citizens? 

In light of a new series of scandals surrounding the preparations for the upcoming 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, the answer appears to be no.

For those civilians living on the fringes of society, the answer is a definitive no – not a chance. 

According to an article published by the Associated Press on Feb. 28th, civilian evictions at the expense of designing an idealized Olympic site have become standard among host cities, stating that “1 million [were] believed to have been moved for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 or what some rights groups estimate were the 720,000 people displaced ahead of the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea.”

The article reports that preparations for building an expressway to the future location of the Olympic Park have been in motion for the past three years, resulting in the eviction of more than 230 families. The article also features the voice of Dalvaneide Pequeno do Nascimento, 36-year-old mother of six and former resident of the Vila Recreio II slum, who represents one of the families forced out of their homes. 

Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Nascimento tells the Associated Press that city officials offered her and her husband either a mere $2,300 as compensation for their home or the option to relocate to a housing project miles away from her work. Even three years later, Nascimento says that because the area lacks access to hospitals, work, or schools, the situation is a “nightmare.”

Unfortunately, Nascimento and the former residents of Vila Recreio II will not be the only victims of Rio’s forced evictions. The Associated Press article goes on to say that in preparation for the construction of Olympic Park, 278 more families will have to be relocated.

The Rio de Janeiro officials are not only interested in flushing out the city’s modern-day imperfections. According to an article published Sunday by the New York Times, the city officials are eager to hide the harrowing scars of the Rio’s past, including a major slave port from the 19th century that has been ironically unearthed by the recent World Cup and Olympic construction.

The New York Times reports that, despite the historical significance of the archeological sites, developers are hastily neglecting the areas and moving forward “with futuristic projects like the Museum of Tomorrow, costing about $100 million and designed in the shape of a fish by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.”

By procrastinating the proper excavation of the sites in a scramble to remodel the city, the New York Times quotes Cláudio Lima Castro, an architect and scholar of urban planning, saying that, “We’re losing an opportunity to focus in detail on our past, and maybe even learn from it.”

Although the 2014 World Cup does not begin until June, the preparations for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar have already yielded catastrophic results for laborers working on the construction of the stadium. According to The Guardian, 500 migrant Indian workers have been killed in the construction of Qatar's World Cup stadium since it began in 2012. 

As spectators of international competition, we must ask ourselves if fulfilling the worldly pressures to present a spectacle of human athleticism is really worth the blatant acts of injustice toward civilians and, ultimately, the cost of human lives.

Samantha Ruggiero is an editorial intern at Warscapes magazine.

Image via Channel NewsAsia.