It’s been an amazing summer of sport. England have held crowds captivated by their performances on the cricket pitch. The Lionesses reached the World Cup final. Meanwhile in the velodrome, British cyclists scooped 22 gold medals and 33 medals in total. They topped the Paracycling medal.   

I’m a big sports fan and love nothing better than watching the idiosyncrasies of Scottish football. Perhaps you, like me, can remember where you were at certain points during the London 2012 Olympics? Were you shouting at the television on Super Saturday? If so, you’ll probably be looking forward to next year’s Paris Olympics.  

Major sporting events and homelessness

An astonishing 12-13 million visitors are expected in France for next summer’s Olympics. This month, Paris sees an influx of some 600,000 rugby fans for the Rugby World Cup. Both these things will affect those facing homelessness.  

Back in May, the French government was announcing plans to establish centres for those experiencing homelessness around the country, moving people out of the capital for these major sporting events.  

Essentially, many lower cost hotels normally used by authorities for people facing homelessness will be renting their rooms out to fee-paying sports fans instead, so the most vulnerable have to go elsewhere.  

France isn’t alone in experiencing this. It is reported that Chinese authorities moved people experiencing homelessness from the streets ahead of the Beijing Olympics. In Brazil, campaign groups claimed that homeless people were forced out of hotels to make way for tourists ahead of the Rio Olympics and the World Cup. And in London, homelessness charity Shelter said that some landlords were ‘threatening tenants with eviction so they could let their homes over the Games’.  

So, here we are ahead of two major sporting events and the same thing is happening. No lessons have been learned.  

Trauma and homelessness

What we know is that homelessness is often the result of a traumatic life event. Homelessness itself is traumatic. Add on being moved out of your accommodation so that tourists can watch rugby, and you have additional, unnecessary trauma.  

This has to stop. One way that it could be halted is if every city hosting an Olympic Games – or other major sporting event – is required to factor accommodation for those experiencing homelessness, who are their own citizens, into the build project. That is to say, there needs to be enough rooms at the inn for everyone, whether they are an asylum seeker, a single mum fleeing a violent home, or someone who’s saved up to watch a major sporting event. Everyone should have a room.  

To his credit, President Macron has planned for rooms, but the mayors of a number of towns due to host the new buildings are up in arms: this is not the right place, they say. And they may well be right.  

In 2028, Los Angeles will open itself up to the world’s sporting fans for the Olympic Games. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this was not a problem then, if the US provided enough rooms, and the most vulnerable in its society were not re-traumatised by the needs of a major sporting event being put ahead of their welfare? It can be done. I hope it is.  

David Smith, CEO Oasis Community Housing