The Olympic Scandal we should be talking about

The Olympic Scandal we should be talking about


Yesterday morning, news outlets around the world breathlessly reported that French police had raided the 2024 Olympics headquarters in suburban Paris, as part of an investigation into corruption and favoritism in handing out contracts to build the upcoming Summer Games. News of the investigation made Paris the third straight Summer Games to wear the taint of scandal and influence-peddling, following the previous Summer Games in Tokyo (2020) and Rio (2016). It’s not even a story the public is particularly interested in anymore. At this point, big muckety-mucks getting busted for Olympic corruption is about as surprising as allowing Russian athletes to compete under a “neutral” flag. It happens, right on schedule, every four years.

But the bigger scandal than what’s happening in posh Olympic headquarters is what is happening on the ground in Paris, where 67 percent of the French public said they felt “indifferent” or worse about the upcoming Games in a recent poll. And that number could potentially go higher, with the 2024 Games already reportedly over budget and estimates that the French public’s contribution to the Games could go as high as €3 billion, a significant departure from the original estimate of €1.87 billion. But even that’s not the worst of it.

France moved unhoused individuals out of the capital

In Mid-March, France began moving the homeless out of the capital ahead of the 2024 Games and the Rugby World Cup, which kicks off in September of 2023 in cities throughout France, asking local governments around the nation to provide “temporary regional accommodation facilities” for a stream of the unhoused ahead of the Games. The systemic relocation of “undesirable” populations has unfortunately become as much a part of the Olympic Games as ridiculous mascots and the boondoggle of massive stadiums that sit relatively empty once their two weeks of fame are up. In 2008, the Beijing Summer Games resulted in the displacement of 1.5 million people. In the five years ahead of the 2016 Summer Games, Brazil moved around 77,000 low-income residents out of Rio and forced the homeless out of tourist areas.

The housing crisis in major cities around the world has been compounded by the rise of Airbnb, which signed a nine-year, $500 million sponsorship deal with the International Olympic Committee in 2019. And why the deal may seem innocuous on its face, that so many low-cost hotels (that often serve as emergency shelters for the unhoused) are being converted to rentals for popular sporting events and vacations mean far fewer options for the poverty-stricken and homeless. During the Paris Games, available housing for the homeless is expected to decrease by 3,0004,000 placements due to tourists looking for temporary accommodations for the Games.

In Paris alone, the number of low-cost housing options being replaced by temporary rental units for tourists is staggering. The City of Light boasted about 4,000 Airbnb units in 2012. That number exploded to more than 40,000 units in 2015. Today, that number is closer to 60,000 and is expected to rise as the Games approach.

As more and more French cities are hit with a housing shortage, France’s finance ministry has begun working to close tax loopholes that favor short-term furnished rentals over long-term leases. But that’s unlikely to stem the tide of property owners who are turning a hefty profit by making housing units available to tourists who are willing to pay top dollar to stay within walking distance of the Games.

Los Angeles is next

It’s a battle that’s being waged in Los Angeles ahead of the 2028 Summer Games, as well. Anti-Olympics protest groups like NOlympics LA argue that the Games should be abolished altogether, in no small part because of the housing issues the Games exacerbate. In Los Angeles, developers are already razing affordable housing to make way for luxury hotels, and protestors fear the trend, with the blessing of local government, will only increase as the 2028 Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, Los Angeles County has approximately 69,000 unhoused people, a significant number of those over 50 and nearly 40 percent of those considered “chronically homeless,” meaning they’ve been without housing for over a year. Estimates for the cost of the 2028 Games have soared to $6.9 billion. And while the official line is that the L.A. Games are being funded privately, taxpayers are on the hook for any overages. Given that every Olympic Games since 1960 has gone over budget, it’s hard to imagine that citizens of both California and Los Angeles won’t wind up paying one way or the other.

After news of the Paris raid, NOlympics LA provided the following statement to Deadspin:

“(N)ews of French authorities raiding Paris 2024 organizing committee offices is wholly predictable. Like every other city strangled by the tentacles of the Olympic monster, Paris’ bid has been a brazen effort to embezzle money, raise rents, plunder for real estate, cater to oligarchs and further militarize policing. After similar corruption investigations in Rio de Janeiro (2016) and Tokyo (2020), it’s clear that bribery is the International Olympic Committee’s only mode of operation. In Los Angeles, four elected officials who promoted and approved our city’s 2028 bid have since been indicted for corruption; a fifth resigned after bragging on a hot mic about gerrymandering, racism, and backroom deals with the Olympic committee. NOlympics LA urges everyone disgusted with this blatant corruption to join our organizing efforts to cancel the 2028 games. Continued “business as usual” for the IOC guarantees mass displacement, deep inequity and unfathomable transfers of wealth from the public to the powerful.”

When L.A. last hosted the Summer Games in 1984, LAPD captain Billy Wedgeworth told the L.A. Times that the city was trying to “sanitize” the streets ahead of the Opening Ceremonies. The city passed laws making it a crime to homeless, and packed unhoused citizens off to detox centers, arrested, or forcibly relocated. Will 2028 be different? 


Original source here

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.