On September 7, we will know the winning candidate of 2020’s Winter Olympic Games.
Experts are currently speculating about the negative impact of Gezi Resistance and doping scandals on Istanbul’s candidacy over Tokyo and Madrid. Therefore, top-level officials are bidding their last efforts to lobby for Istanbul until the last second.
Applied for the fifth time and running as candidate for the third time, Turkey is trying to gain support with its encouragement to sports, athletic facilities, tourism revenues and public audience.
What do Olympic Games really bring to a country except gigantic stadiums, fireworks and scores of tourists?
Istanbul currenlty host 11 out of 37 athletic facilities that it has envisioned. Planned to be built in the Olympic Village and Paralympic Village, the remaining 20 facilities are expected to be on permanent basis anad 6 others to temporary (detachable).
These facilities are planned to be built in the historical peninsula (Yedikule, Harem), public spaces (Haydarpaşa), green spots (Belgrade Forests and Esenler) and waterfront (Bosporus).
Istanbul pledged an investment amount of 19.7 billion dollars for 2020 Olympic Games - surpassing Tokyo and Madrid by 4 and 10 times respectively.
High Architect and UIA Sports & Leisure Work Group member Sena Özfiliz and UN-Habitat AGFE local expert Cihan Uzunçarşılı responded bianet’s inquiries on the issue.
Why no to olympic games?
Since 1992, Olympic Games have derailed from its ideals, serving in concordence to the neoliberal policies for the commericilization of cities. Cities have become tools of the capital with all the glamour and enternainment. Some see olympics as an opportunity for economic growth: gigantic infrastructure efforts, urban renewal, real estate investments... Such are regarded as routine works of an olympic city. By the same token, Turkey‘s Olympic Games report also envisions a similar construction/contraction perspective. Where is sports here?
What about the social costs?
These projects bring along so many demolishings. Usually, these efforts manifest themselves with the ousting of “dirty”, “ugly”, “improper” lower class people from the borders of the city. Forced evictions and neighborhood demoloshings are the dirty facades of Olympic Games.
The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions/COHRE report cites that at least 4 million people were forced to evict their homes worldwide between 1998 and 2008 due to upcoming olympic games. Another report by UN Rapporteur Rolnik not only points out that the number of eviction will be on the rise, but also mentions several negative impacts of olympic games on the city including rent hikes, social housing policies and degeneration.
However, nobody tends to see this dirty facede in the midst of all the glory and fraternity discourse. Some people also become nationalistic and don’t see the point in a healthy manner.
How will it affect the city of Istanbul?
Let’s remember how Ayazma district suddenly became a venue of attraction as officials chose to build the olympic stadium there. Let’s remember how people were faced to demolishings there. Look at 2020 Olympic Games map for Istanbul. Currently, we are talking about historical Yedikule district. This is all that comes to it. It will legitimize all demolishing efforts that will only serve to the capital holders.
When Former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing Miloon Kothari visited Istanbul, he said “Olympics would be disaster for Istanbul”. He also added that he observed a similar experience in New Delhi with the pretext of Commonwealth Games. He said those projects aimed to expell poor populations out of the city with the promise of building gigantic projects.
We are going to experience a similar scenario. Such is a segration based on social status and place and it must be stopped immediately. However, the process will skyrocket. The struggle against urban renewal projects will be overshowed by Olympic Games.
In China, 1.5 million people were displaced due to olympic games. Historical Dazhalan neighborhood has been sacrificed for hotels and shopping malls. IN Vancouver, native people’s territies were confiscated, the government chose to build the olympic facilities there. In Rio, there are massive demolishings. In London, social housing buildings owned by lower class people have been destroyed. Why do neighborhood-dwellers want to have Olympic Games that take away their houses?
It also has ramifications on environment and nature. Look at Istanbul’s 2020 Olympic Games facilities from above. There will be consequence for green spots and water resources. We are talking about 420 kilometersquare territory in the north and the biggest eco-genocide will happen there.
Instead of Olympic Games?
With this kind of massive budget, you can almost do anything including re-inforcement of public buildings, resolving traffic and infrastructure issues, re-bolstering building against earthquakes. What is the point here to waste billions of dollors to pollute your natural resources in the name of momentary show? For instance, Chicago declined to enter Olympic Games due to these reasons. There are anti-olympic groups worldwide, let’s better say people are more aware now.
* Click here to read the original article in Turkish.