The 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa: rendering poverty invisible by demolishing and upgrading informal settlements

The 2010 FIFA World Cup was proclaimed by the South African government as a motor of economic growth and an opportunity to change the African continent’s persistent international image as a region of poverty and crisis (Steinbrink et al., 2011). South Africa spent about US$3 billion hosting the World Cup, slightly less than Germany which hosted this prestigious football event four years earlier but carried a relatively lower financial burden in relation to its much higher gross domestic product. An additional challenge for South Africa in organising this mega-event was that its ranking as the world’s most unequal country in terms of income distribution. South Africa has also been plagued by a persistent housing crisis, where millions of people continue to live in informal squatter settlements.

In the run-up to the World Cup, many informal settlements in several of the host cities were demolished and extensive upgrading processes were instigated to ‘beautify’ the urban centres for the much-anticipated event (Steinbrink, Haferburg and Ley, 2011; Maharaj, 2015). A major flagship project that coincided with the approval of South Africa’s bid for the 2010 World Cup by the FIFA was the N2 Gateway project in Cape Town, which had the objective to redevelop a 10km long squatter strip along the N2 motorway connecting the international airport to the city centre (Newton, 2009). Thousands of residents were relocated from these informal settlements, including the Joe Slovo Settlement, to so-called ‘temporary relocation areas’ in the impoverished city outskirts, which have been described as overcrowded refugee-style camps without electricity and only shared sanitary facilities (Steinbrink et al., 2011; Maharaj, 2015). While most relocated residents were initially given the prospect to return to a redeveloped settlement and be provided with subsidised housing, it later emerged that there were not enough housing units and that the majority' could not afford the high rents in the newly built houses (COHRE, 2009).

Johannesburg — another 2010 World Cup venue and the city with the highest income inequality in the world — also saw major evictions and ‘upgrading’ projects. A large-scale urban renewal project around the Ellis Park Stadium, the so-called ‘Greater Ellis Park Development Plan’, excluded affected residents from any decision-making process and resulted in the forced eviction of many of the area’s former inhabitants (Steinbrink, Haferburg and Ley, 2011). These processes went along with a major effort of‘securitising’ this mega-event (Cornelissen, 2011). In compliance with FIFA requirements, hundreds of informal traders or street vendors were expelled from the ‘exclusion zones’ of the two stadiums, Soccer City and Ellis Park (Steinbrink, Haferburg and Ley, 2011). Such forms of economic displacement were also recorded from other venues. Altogether, it was estimated that about 100,000 mostly female street vendors temporarily lost their livelihoods during the 2010 FIFA World Cup (Maharaj, 2015).

The 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil: exclusion games, forced evictions and state-led gentrification

Similar to the case of South Africa and the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Brazil regarded its successful bids for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games as a major opportunity to showcase an emerging powerhouse (Brazil) and a world-class global metropolis (Rio de Janeiro) to the rest of the world. Earlier, Brazil had hosted the 2007 Pan American Games which resulted in the removal of informal settlements favelas) around the athletes’ housing complex (Gaffney, 2016). Like in South Africa, these megaevents primarily benefitted the urban elites and exacerbated the plight of the poor and marginalised groups that suffered from forced displacements, loss of livelihoods and serious violations of human rights. One study maintains — based on official data provided by the city administration — that more than 22,000 families or approximately 77,000 people were relocated in the city of Rio de Janeiro during the period 2009—2015 (Comitè Popular da Copa e das Olimpiadas do Rio de Janeiro, 2015). Strategies employed by city administrators ranged from selective eviction of favela residents to relocation of inhabitants to social housing complexes in the periphery of the municipality (Janoschka and Sequera, 2016). In almost half of these cases, the official discourse was that these communities were ‘at risk’ from natural hazards, such as flooding and landslides (McGuirk, 2016).

Projects of favela rentoçào (removal of informal settlements) are not a recent phenomenon in Rio de Janeiro. In the 19th century, municipal planners evicted thousands of informal settlers from the city centre with the ambition to turn it into a ‘Tropical Paris’, with a second wave of evictions following in the 1960s. When Rio hosted the Pan American Games in 2007, several partial favela removals were executed around venues in the suburb of Barra da Tijuca, hailed by the then president of the Brazilian Association of Travel Agents who cynically argued that “without the favelas blighting the landscape, tourism levels would rise, the profits of which could be channelled into fighting poverty” (Phillips, 2005, n.p.).

In 2008, a few months after winning the bid for the 2016 Olympic Summer Games, the state government of Rio de Janeiro instigated a highly controversial programme of sending so-called Unidades Pacificadoros Policiais (UPPs) or Police Pacification Units into dozens of favelas within the Olympic clusters, in a co-funding arrangement with private investors (Gaffney, 2016; Janoschka and Sequera, 2016). The obvious aim of this measure was to ‘pacify’ unruly parts of the urban population and establish complete control over urban spaces that were deemed essential for a smooth organisation of the upcoming mega-event. One of the side effects of the UPP programme was the opening of backpacker hostels, nightclubs and adventure tours in these ‘pacified favelas', which intensified gentrification pressures and instigated conflicts between original inhabitants and developers (Gaffney, 2016).

The preparations for the 2016 Rio Olympics entailed profound changes to the mega-city’s infrastructure, including the building of two Olympic parks and the Olympic village, the construction of four new rapid transit bus lines, and an extension of the metro (Müller and Gaffney, 2018). Several favelas were demolished to build this expansive Olympic infrastructure and thousands of favela inhabitants were reportedly killed (Comité Popular da Copa e das Olimpiadas do Rio de Janeiro, 2014). Even settlements where residents had formal land entitlements were not safe from the bulldozers; Vila Autódromo, a settlement of several hundred families with long-term leases granted earlier by the state government of Rio de Janeiro, lost 97 per cent of its residents to the construction of the International Broadcasting Centre and associated parking lots and road works (Silvestre and de Oliveira, 2012; Miiller and Gaffney, 2018). Only 20 families that succeeded in resisting eviction were eventually accorded the right to stay in their community in August 2018 as part of the first-ever collectively negotiated rehousing agreement in Rio de Janeiro (Talbot, 2018).

Other communities that were facing eviction lived in proximity to the Tom Jobim International Airport which underwent a major expansion ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics. Thousands of families had earlier been evicted from sites of airport upgrading and expansion projects in the 2014 FIFA World Cup venues Porto Alegre and Curitiba (Maharaj, 2015). This brings us to the issue of large-scale tourism infrastructure development discussed hereafter.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >