A New Olympic Sport: City Cleansing

A New Olympic Sport: City Cleansing

I encountered this article while I was researching the performance of the Bulgarian athletes during the Rio Olympic games this summer and what I found amusing is the confrontation with reality of the splendor and glory of short-lived major sports events and the prolonged process of preparation for hosting them and the way communities are transformed or completely erased while doing so. The sense of exclusion and community cleansing that it presented resonated with me and our discussions on unit two.

I could not help but feel a little exasperated because of the marginalization which occurs every time an economic incentive to ‘’cleanse’’ a district is underway, as I find the idea to not ruin the image of a site in the public eye while covering up but not solving its problems contemptible. It is logical to acknowledge that major sports events are a source of financial influx and they stabilize the economy, and that no tourist would like to feel unsafe and uncomfortable while enjoying themselves, but at the same time, Brazil is one of the countries with the highest GINI indices (an economic index that determines the income inequality in a nation, where a value above 50 is considered high) according to the World Bank, with a 51% index rate in 2014. This speaks of how unevenly wealth is spread and alludes to the idea that Brazil is an economically segregated nation. Therefore, these cleansing policies certainly deepen the income gap between lower and upper-class men, so that we end in a well-known living laboratory situation: thousands of people are dislocated from the place they live (sometimes 80 km away!), to make room for privileged visitors from all over the world to gape at the events for 19 days. The newly erected buildings are seldom used after the event in question is over. Hence we can identify a new aspect of a living laboratory, and that is the displacement from home and the psychological implications it has for the mental well-being of the homeless citizens and the people living in favelas, as they lose a part of their identity and the security of being accustomed to one’s surroundings, a sense built through devoting years to one’s home. We should also note that the displaced people do not have the financial assets to oppose the banishment from their homes, as lawyers are expensive.

Then should we really allow for the building of grand constructions to accommodate events generating enormous turnover for the economy, when the people who need this extra income benefit the least? How important is the partial loss of one’s identity as a determinant of a living lab and should we generate living labs when trying to appeal to foreign countries and their cultures, while trimming the uniqueness of our own? And lastly, how important a factor is money in government decision-making when the happy lives of people who constitute a significant portion of the electorate are at stake?

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