Does hosting the Olympics reduce poverty or create it?

In The Spotlight

International competitive games have a long history of generating news coverage that extends beyond just keeping score. In light of the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics, the arduous efforts that nations put into preparation and the affairs and state of the host nations themselves become hoisted into the spotlight.

The hosting of a major global sporting event like the Olympics or the World Cup can  generate positive global media attention and revenue, McSilverType3while allowing countries to display their already existing or desired economic and political prowess. While some argue that hosting has the potential to provide nations and their citizens with a number of gains,  reality proves otherwise.

Evidence of economic gains from increased  tourism and investment is not always what actually happens in nations that are already facing economic hardship. The  2004 Athens’ Summer Olympics left the nation with even greater debt as a result of building sports complexes that are now underutilized or even abandoned.

While the games may aim to serve the purpose of displaying a nation’s significance as a leading or rising global economic or political power, the ongoing Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and the upcoming 2014 World Cup in Brazil are actually bringing a great deal of attention to the poverty and instability of these leading world powers.

Numerous reports from Sochi have focused on brown drinking water, stray dogs, and hotel amenities not fit for living, Behind these headlines is coverage of what it is  like to live in Sochi. Leading up to the opening of the games, families living in or near endemic poverty  found themselves displaced because of construction in preparation for the olympics.

In Brazil,a similar story has emerged. In preparation for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, construction of sporting complexes have forced families out of their homes, homes which for many served as an economic pillar of stability. Stories continue to arise regarding diplacement and worker’s rights, or the lack thereof. Notably, the preparation for for the games has wound up  highlighting the severe poverty faced by many who reside in Brazil’s favelas.

As recurring international mega sporting events continue to press on and generate billions of dollars for some, they continue to directly contribute to ongoing poverty and inequality for those living in the host nations.

Direct Service Implications

In working with vulnerable foreign populations, direct service providers are faced with a number of diverse issues related to human rights violations and varying identities of poverty. While the challenges of each nation are widely different, providers must continue to understand the complex issues their clients face on a micro and macro level. Whether working abroad or domestically with recent immigrant populations, providers must continue to remain informed about the challenges individuals face given their current or former geographical locations.

In order to stay informed of human right issues and the state of global affairs, providers can find information through  Human Rights Watch,  Amnesty International, and the  United Nations’ websites, mailing lists, and social media.


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