Affordable Housing and the Olympic Games

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The Olympic Games are intended to be a symbol of international solidarity. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, envisioned a world in which, “Men have begun to lead less isolated existences, different races have learnt to know, to understand each other better, and by comparing their powers and achievements in the fields of art, industry and science, a noble rivalry has sprung up amongst them.”1 In keeping with this goal of international cooperation, Rio de Janeiro will host the Olympics in 2016—the first Olympic Games to be held in South America. The Rio Olympics are an opportunity both for Brazilians to showcase the economic vivacity and cultural brilliance of modern Rio on an international stage and for the International Olympic Committee to prove its commitment to global unity. As the Brazilian government works to construct an Olympic Park that is representative of Brazilian cohesion and passion, it is simultaneously attempting to evict and raze the favelas, or shantytowns, effectively displacing approximately 4,000 people.2

London is also struggling to overcome the negative relationship between the Olympic Games and affordable housing. By promising that more than 11,000 new, affordable properties will be built on-site at the Olympic Park after the 2012 Games are over, Olympic planners sought to guarantee economic development in the east London communities. The public fear, however, is that these properties, even at subsidized rates, will not be affordable for low-income families.

2012 Olympic Games in London
(View this photo and other photos from London 2012 here.)

1. William Oscar Johnson, The Olympics: A History of the Games (New York: Bishop Books, 1992): 13.
2. Simon Romero, “Brazil Faces Obstacles in Preparations for Rio Olympics,” New York Times, March 4, 2012.

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