Lawyers, economists and activists gathered at the UConn School of Law on Friday, April 12, 2019 to discuss the harsh realities of hosting the Olympic Games.
“Cities are promising huge growth and transformation,” said keynote speaker Dr. Jules Boykoff, a professor, author and former Olympic soccer player. “Instead, we’re seeing displacement of people and abandonment of facilities used for the Olympics. The reality couldn’t be further from what’s promised.”
The symposium, “Behind the Games: the Effect of the Olympics on Host Cities” was presented by the Connecticut Journal of International Law. The symposium co-chairs were Tarek Chatila ‘19 and Tatyana Marugg ‘19.
UConn Law fourth year evening-division student Shehrezad Haroon said the event opened her eyes to the ugly underbelly of the Olympics, something she had viewed as a celebration of community.
“This event is really amazing in terms of explaining the the impact hosting the Olympics has on real people in that city,” Haroon said. “It’s easy to see the Olympics as this amazing coming together of people and nations, but there’s a really dark side to that.”
In addition to the keynote address, three expert panels discussed the economic, land use and human rights concerns associated with hosting the Olympics. Throughout the day, speakers shared pictures of abandoned Olympic stadiums, often unkempt and overgrown.
Speakers agreed the growing awareness around the issue has made cities hesitant to apply to host the Olympics. They pointed to the soaring costs and rising issue of displacement and gentrification as key concerns for any potential host city.
Although the subject matter was heavy, the crowd of about 120 people remained optimistic as participants expressed hope that in highlighting these issues, they could help shape positive reform.
"'What was so great about this event was that it was planned entirely by the students, who assembled a terrific lineup of speakers covering all sides of the issue,' said Professor Sara C. Bronin, who was the journal's symposium advisor, "The students intuitively recognized that there was more than meets the eye here."