PtG Article 27.06.2007

IOC asked to prevent evictions and protect Olympic workers

The International Olympic Committee does not want to get involved with the general human rights situation in China. But now, human rights organisations try to engage the IOC in alleviating human rights problems that are a direct consequence of China’s preparations for the Games or occur in the name of the Olympics.

 Last week the campaign PlayFair 2008 released the report ‘No medal for the Olympics on Labour Rights’, which details working conditions in four Chinese factories that produce Olympic licensed bags, headgear, stationary and other products. Employees at the factories told PlayFair researchers that

  • many are paid adult wages at half the legal minimum
  • factories employ workers as young as 12 years old
  • employees are made to work 12-hour shifts seven days a week for 30 days a month
  • workers are punished for visiting the toilet more than 15 minutes a day or for missing work
  • workers are being instructed to lie about wages and conditions to outside inspectors
  • employers falsify employment records

PlayFair 2008 is  organised by the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and the International Textile, Garment and Leather Worker’s Federation (ITGLWF). The organisations want to eliminate the exploitation and abuse of workers in the global sporting goods industry and since the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004, PlayFair has tried to get the IOC to include workers rights into Olympics supply chain contracts

"Licensing of the Olympics brand is a major source of income for the IOC and national Olympics committees, and it brings shame on the whole Olympics movement that such severe violations of international labour standards are taking place in Olympics-licensed factories" says Guy Ryder, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation to PlayFair’s website.

According to PlayFair, the IOC imposes a range of strict conditions on licensees but these conditions do not include requirements to respect fundamental labour standards. Playfair therefore offers to work with the IOC to develop and implement proposals to ensure labour rights compliance throughout all Olympics merchandise supply chains but so far the IOC has rejected all proposals from PlayFair.

In a comment to the new report, IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said that the IOC does not directly manage and control the production of Olympic-related products across the world. Meanwhile the Chinese Olympic organising committee BOCOG has threatened to cut off co-operation with the four factories mentioned in the PlayFair report.

Olympic Games have displaced more than two million peopleAnother NGO, Centre for Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), has been better at getting the IOC’s attention after it published the report “Fair Play for Housing Rights: Mega-Events, Olympic Games and Housing Rights” early in June.

The report shows how the Olympic Games have displaced more than two million people in the last 20 years, disproportionately affecting minorities such as the homeless, the poor, Roma and African-Americans.

According to the report, more than 1.25 million people have already been displaced in Beijing in preparation for the 2008 Games. COHRE’s research reveals that a total of 1.5 million people will be displaced from their homes by the time the Games commence in August 2008 (click here to read COHREøs factsheet on the Beijing Games).

These figures do not include approximately 400,000 migrants living ‘temporarily’ in 171 neighbourhoods in situations of extreme insecurity, having come to Beijing due to lack of livelihood opportunities in rural areas.

Victims of forced evictions, their legal representatives and housing rights defenders who oppose or challenge evictions are subject to ongoing intimidation, harassment and, in some instances imprisonment for their activism.

COHRE also proposes a set of guidelines for organisers of mega-events.

“It is possible (and imperative) for megaevents to be organised without forcibly evicting people, without criminalising the homeless and without rendering housing unaffordable. COHRE calls on all parties to ensure that adequate attention to the housing rights of anyone affected by the hosting of such events is mainstreamed into the bidding, selection and implementation processes,” Jean du Plessis, Executive Director (COHRE), says in a press statement.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry rejected COHRE’s figures as “groundless” but IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies told the Associated Press that the IOC planned to attend a COHRE workshop addressing the issue.

“It's a comprehensive study that touches upon a very important subject. We'd like to get a better understanding of the issues and see what international norms and U.N. standards exist that could serve as guidelines for governments in the future," she said.

*If you would like to read more stories like this, please click here to visit our Beijing Olympics 2008 theme page. 

Play the Game 2007 will examine some of the key issues invovled in the hosting of mega-events, such as the Beijing 2008 Olympics. To learn more about Play the Game 2007, the fifth world communication conference on sport and society, click here .