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Sport's failing legacy

It’s often said that sport has the unique ability to unite. Well at least that’s the theory…

At first glance the World Cup seems to have delivered exactly that. The media has been glowing about events in South Africa. The Independent – not normally renowned for its praise of such events – splashed on it on their front page. Crime fell, the economy boomed and there was a legacy of hope and optimism, the article screamed (Oh and Spain won).

But has anything really changed? There is after all another side to the 'legacy'.

This was the World Cup where police harassment of hawkers and homeless South Africans soared. Where refugees and migrants living in shelters in the inner cities suffered at the hands of the security forces determined to 'clean up' the public image of the country. And where police raids, arbitrary arrests and destruction of informal housing became almost common place.

Sadly the World Cup was far from the first time such a major sporting event has been tarnished with human rights abuses in recent times.

Back in 2005 I travelled around China. The country then was gearing up for the 2008 Olympic Games and as I strolled around central Beijing it was impossible to escape the sight of the numerous Hutongs – the famous Chinese courtyard dwellings – being demolished to make way for new developments with scant regard for the residents.

Tragically, it was one of the many human rights abuses that were going on in the build up to the Games, and our Olympic ambassador, John Amaechi, spoke out about them eloquently at the time.

It appears that neither the lessons of Beijing or South Africa have hit home. This October sees another big sporting event on the global calendar – the Commonwealth Games. And what’s the latest news? You guessed it, evictions of the 'undesirables' and slum dwellers from near the stadium site. Jason Burke’s excellent and emotive piece in today’s Guardian describes the situation perfectly.

So what hope for the next World Cup in Brazil in 2014? Will they use the finals as an excuse to “clean up” the Favelas, or will there be a legacy that we can truly be proud of? Only time will tell.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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