UN expert slams FIFA for failing to require that World Cup cities safeguard people’s housing

Monday, March 8, 2010

UN expert: Big sports events force many from homes

GENEVA — A U.N. human rights investigator said Monday that numerous people have complained to her of being forced from their homes or priced out of the housing market as a result of large events such as the World Cup.

Raquel Rolnik, an independent investigator appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council, criticized soccer’s (football’s) world governing body, FIFA, for failing to ensure that cities wanting to stage the world’s biggest sporting event explicitly commit to protecting housing rights.

Unlike the International Olympic Committee, FIFA hasn’t responded to repeated demands to make housing rights a key part of the bidding process for hosting the event, she told reporters in Geneva.

“It’s a much less transparent and clear process of bidding and selecting as compared to the Olympic Committee,” she said.

Rolnik said the IOC made housing issues part of the bidding process starting with the 2016 Olympic Games. She praised Chicago for being the first city to pledge not to evict any people from their home when it bid — unsuccessfully — to host the 2016 event.

Rolnik said she and her predecessor had tried to meet with representatives of FIFA, the Zurich-based soccer body, to discuss also protecting housing rights as part of World Cup bids.

“FIFA never answered any of our letters, any of our requests to have meetings,” she said.

FIFA didn’t immediately respond to an Associated Press request for comment.

In a report to the Geneva-based rights council, Rolnik cited claims that more than 20,000 residents were being moved from a makeshift settlement near Cape Town to impoverished areas at the edge of the city ahead of the June-July World Cup in South Africa.

Cape Town officials denied the claims.

“The city is not covering up its social realities,” said Pieter Cronje, Cape Town’s spokesman for the event. “It is busy with a systematic upgrading process of its more than 220 informal settlements to ensure they become part of the city fabric, not a perimeter enclave.”

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