Making people move out for sport in Rio

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Making people move out for sport in Rio

by Kate Steiker-Ginzberg

Before you watch the next World Cup and Olympics on TV in 2014 and 2016, you will also see many times the amazing sports venues. And Brazilians, dancing samba, welcoming you to the “Marvellous City of Rio de Janeiro”.

But these beautiful pictures do not show the reality of putting on such big events. This reality can include evictions (forcing people to move out), no involvement of the people, militarization of poor areas and privatization of urban space. In Rio, for the World Cup and Olympics, they are putting elite property and business interests before the poor, who are being forced to move to the side.

To prepare for the events, the city has forced many people out of the “favelas”. These are informal communities, built by the people. About 3,100 families have already been moved away, and another 7,800 families might be moved soon. The city is trying to make these evictions legal. They say they relate to big projects (eg. transportation, bringing new life to the port, protection of the environment), but many people say that communities are being moved mainly from expensive, central areas where property values are rising. They are not given enough financial compensation or moved too far from jobs and schools.

A good example of people fighting against these evictions is in Vila Autodromo. They have been fighting against eviction for decades. The land is very near the Olympic site, so many developers want to build luxury apartments for after the Games. The city is still trying to force people to move away. But residents have worked with architects and urban planners to develop a “Popular Plan” – a less expensive, better quality alternative to eviction. Claudio Silva, who has lived there for many years, says: “We are not against these big events or national development. But we are paying a very high price for an event that lasts only a few days.”

On the first day of the FIFA Confederations Cup, we saw, on social media, a great example of creative resistance. The “People’s Cup Against Removals” brought together the communities the city wants to evict to celebrate “soccer as a form of protest” and to get people in all the favelas working together. This event showed that these big events, run by big businesses and consumers, are so terrible for thousands of families.

The cameras of the world will now show a new Rio de Janeiro, but the poor communities will not move away in silence – they are demanding to be heard.