It's an exciting time with the Olympics taking place in Rio De Janeiro. But what takes place before the Olympics ever gets off the ground involves years of planning, lobbying, and infrastructure development. That development often requires use of eminent domain. And in countries without due process and constitutional rights to just compensation, the condemnation process is an ugly endeavor for those impacted.
In Rio, for example, KUSA reports in its article, Rio de Janeiro villages uprooted for Olympics, that leading up to the games, eminent domain was often used "without warning and usually without any compensation." In one village, owners spray painted a sign that reads "not all of us have a price." The owners say they don't blame the Olympics, but instead their own government; twenty of the families have hired a lawyer to fight the Olympic take-over. The government has responded by stating that the Olympic games and infrastructure are for the greater good, as it will benefit Brazil's economy in the long-run.
The story in Rio is not new; the same thing happened on Sochi, Russia, where families who had modest cottages along the beaches of the Black Sea were forced out for the Olympic park. That park was a ghost town three weeks after the closing ceremony.
Perhaps the worst example was in Beijing, where 1.5 million residents were displaced by eminent domain, and one individual burned himself to death after being forcibly evicted from his home to make way for the 2008 Olympic Games. The Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions said residents were often forced from their homes with little notice and little compensation. "In Beijing, and in China more generally, the process of demolition and eviction is characterized by arbitrariness and lack of due process," the group said in a report.
Yet not all Olympic locations have seen such unfortunate measures. In London, the story was different, as the Olympic committee took an industrial area that was a Superfund site and cleaned it up, then built it up. It is now apartments and shops. I've also traveled many times to Whistler, the home of the 2010 winter Olympics, and I've witnessed the thriving community which was helped by the incredible infrastructure improvements to the area.
So while we enjoy watching the Olympics, keep in mind the individuals who have lost their property, and be thankful for the constitutional protections that exist in the United States when it comes to eminent domain.
Brad Kuhn serves as Chair of Nossaman's Eminent Domain & Valuation Group. Brad is a real estate and business litigation attorney, with a particular emphasis in the transportation, energy/gas, water, land-use development, and ...
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