Paris 2024 Olympics: How the Games are being used to marginalize the most vulnerable (2024)

This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site.


Authors: Umer Hussain, Assistant Professor Sport Management, Wilkes University; Adam Ali, Assistant Professor, School of Kinesiology, Western University; MacIntosh Ross, Assistant Professor, Kinesiology, Western University; and Shakiba Moghadam, Lecturer in Psychology, Solent University

Athletes from around the world are gearing up for the 2024 Summer Olympics that are being held in Paris this year. While the Games are often billed as a beacon of global unity, they have historically marginalized the most vulnerable communities in host cities.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) routinely makes grandiose claims about its commitment to humanity. Looking over the Olympic Charter and the IOC’s guiding philosophy of “Olympism,” it’s hard not to be struck by the organization’s promises, however empty they may be.

It states:

“The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”

Yet, time and again, the Games have further disadvantaged some of the world’s most marginalized people in host cities. For Paris 2024, the outcome will be no different. The nations of the world will look the other way, ignore the consequences of the Games and celebrate a new crop of athletes — fulfilling the Olympic’s motto of “faster, higher, stronger” —while embracing displacement, gentrification and bigotry.

Displacing unhoused people

In April, hundreds of people, including displaced communities, were evicted from makeshift shelters in a camp south of Paris. This is only the most recent example; police have carried out numerous evictions in the run-up to the Games.

These evictions are a clear example of how the Olympic Games are used as a pretext to displace marginalized people to sanitize a host city’s image before the global spectacle.

Authorities say the evictions are not connected to the Games. However, in July 2023, a new law was passed imposing large fines and prison sentences for illegal occupation.

Displaced communities encounter significant mental health risks, which primarily arise from their prior experiences of false persecution, war and having to leave their home countries. The prolonged migration process in European countries further exacerbates the risk of displaced communities experiencing mental health symptoms and disorders.

Research further shows that factors like unstable living conditions, and the breakdown of social and cultural ties further compound vulnerability, increasing the risk of mental health symptoms and disorders among displaced communities.

Forcing people to leave the only places they can find shelter to accommodate events like the Olympic Games only compounds the trauma many have already experienced.

Hijab ban

The French government’s stance on French Muslim women athletes wearing hijabs remains one of the most contentious issues surrounding the Paris Olympics.

In September 2023, French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera reiterated that French athletes will be banned from wearing hijab. That casts doubt on how inclusive the Paris Games will be.

The French government’s ideological view regarding religious symbols directly conflicts with the IOC’s regulations that permit athletes to express their religious beliefs, including wearing religious attire like the hijab.

The United Nations Human Rights Office and Amnesty International have said such bans infringe on Muslim women’s rights and freedom.

Furthermore, various Muslim women athletes like Diaba Konaté have left France, or are thinking of leaving the country, in search of sporting environments that respect their religious beliefs.

The hijab ban not only violates the fundamental right of Muslim women to follow their religious beliefs, but also contradicts the core principles of equality espoused by the Olympics.

The hijab ban also starkly contradicts the French government’s proclaimed commitment to equality through sports by effectively excluding Muslim women who want to wear a hijab.

Double standards of Western media

Despite clear and documented instances of human rights abuses linked to the upcoming Paris Olympics, much of the western media and political leaders have remained conspicuously silent.

Many western athletes, commentators, news outlets and politicians were previously critical of the human rights records of countries like Azerbaijan, Russia, China and Qatar when they hosted mega sporting events. Many claimed that those governments were using sporting events to launder their human rights records.

Some even called for boycotts and bans.

Yet, that kind of criticism is rarely directed inward as well.

Researchers have previously argued that western media reports human rights abuses in the West with a tilted bias suggesting westerners are morally superior and concerned, framing issues as isolated rather than systemic.

For instance, a recent study outlines how British media portrayed English cricketer Azeem Rafiq’s allegations of racism against the Yorkshire County Cricket Club. The media narrative suggested that British society is aware of racism, accepts criticism and is ready to act.

However, the same media also portrayed Rafiq as an outsider and his allegations as isolated incidents.

Western media’s inconsistent condemnation of sportswashing and limited criticism of hosts in the West obfuscates a harsh reality. These mega events, whether in Beijing or Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro or Paris, come at a grim human cost.

It’s high time the West looked in the mirror. The Paris 2024 Olympics will not be the scene of renewed efforts toward “social responsibility and respect for internationally recognized human rights.” In many ways, it’s already a failure in those respects.

After more than 100 years of repeated harms, perhaps it’s time to consign Olympism to the dustbin of history. We must speak bluntly and honestly about these mega sporting events, identify their limitations and voice meaningful opposition regardless of which nation is hosting. If that means a world without the Olympics, so be it.


The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Disclosure information is available on the original site. Read the original article:

Umer Hussain, Assistant Professor Sport Management, Wilkes University; Adam Ali, Assistant Professor, School of Kinesiology, Western University; MacIntosh Ross, Assistant Professor, Kinesiology, Western University; and Shakiba Moghadam, Lecturer in Psychol, The Conversation

Paris 2024 Olympics: How the Games are being used to marginalize the most vulnerable (2024)


Paris 2024 Olympics: How the Games are being used to marginalize the most vulnerable? ›

This is only the most recent example; police have carried out numerous evictions in the run-up to the Games. These evictions are a clear example of how the Olympic Games are used as a pretext to displace marginalized people to sanitize a host city's image before the global spectacle.

How are the Paris 2024 Olympic Games going to be eco friendly and sustainable? ›

The Olympics will run on 100% green energy generated from new sources of wind and solar energy like windmills on the Normandy coast to solar panels on the roofs of venues in Paris.

How does the Olympics affect society? ›

The social benefits of hosting the Olympic Games are wide-ranging, and contextual to each host's vision. They include opportunities to promote: elite and grassroots sport; health; education; culture; gender equality; inclusion and diversity; and human rights.

How can the Olympics be more sustainable? ›

Hosts are encouraged to prioritise existing venues, then consider temporary venues. New venues should be built only if there is a solid legacy and business case, in line with the long-term needs of the population, integrating sustainability principles into all aspects of design, planning and construction.

Can the Olympic Games really help create a peaceful and better world? ›

In this world of uncertainty that we are living in today, the Olympic Games are even more relevant than ever. The UN talks about sport as a universal language that can be a powerful tool to promote peace, tolerance and understanding by bringing people together across boundaries and cultures.

What is the economic impact expected from the 2024 Paris Olympics? ›

According to Sylvain Bersinger, an economist with the consultancy firm Asterès, spending on the Games by French businesses should "lead to the creation of 109,000 jobs, as well as around €9.3 billion in added value." These are significant benefits, but they will be spread over several years since the construction work ...

How is Paris becoming more sustainable? ›

Several actions are currently being deployed to develop renewable energies. For example, 76,500 m² of solar panels have already been installed on Paris rooftops. By 2030, 20% of Parisian roofs will be equipped with solar panels.

What are the negative impacts of hosting the Olympics? ›

Hosting the Olympics tends to result in severe economic deficiencies for cities. Unless a city already has the existing infrastructure to support the excess crowds pouring in, not hosting the Olympics may be the best option.

How did the Olympics impact culture? ›

The Olympic festival not only celebrated excellence in athletics. It also provided the occasion for Greeks to produce lasting cultural achievements in architecture, mathematics, sculpture, and poetry.

How do the Olympics affect the environment? ›

Estimates from PyeongChang Olympics believe the games emitted roughly 1,590 kilotons of greenhouse gases. The amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere is incalculable. Fortunately, it appears a new era of environmental accountability is upon us, although there are still significant flaws.

What is the least sustainable Olympics? ›

At the tail end, the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014 and the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 feature the lowest sustainability scores.

Are the Olympics good or bad for the economy? ›

Hosting the Olympic Games generates powerful economic benefits. It enables a region and country to develop: the knowledge and skills of their workforce and volunteers; career opportunities; the tourism and events industry; the business sector; their global profile; and diplomatic relations.

How Olympic is helping to create global unity? ›

In Olympic sport, everyone is equal, irrespective of their background, gender, social status or beliefs. This principle of non-discrimination in sport allows the Olympic Games to promote peace and understanding among all people. Sport is one of the few areas of human activity that has achieved universal law.

What is the Olympic motto? ›

Citius, Altius, Fortius” is the motto of the Olympic Games; an event that symbolizes unity and exuberance of the human spirit. These three Latin words mean “Swifter, Higher, Stronger.” Baron de Coubertin borrowed the motto from Father Henri Martin Dideono, the headmaster of Arcueil College in Paris.

Why were the Olympics originally banished? ›

The Olympic Games started in 776 B.C. in the Ancient Greek sanctuary of Olympia and lasted until 393 AD when Theodosius I banned them in order to promote Christianity.

What is the modern Olympic motto? ›

The new Olympic motto now reads in Latin “Citius, Altius, Fortius – Communiter” and “Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together” in English. The original motto was first expressed by the Dominican priest Henri Didon in the opening ceremony of a school sports event in 1881.

What is the Paris 2024 Olympics environmental ambition? ›

The 2024 Olympics in Paris is going green. Organizers will attempt to make it the first carbon-neutral Olympics in modern history by offsetting more emissions than the Games create to limit its impact on the climate. The goal is to cut the carbon footprint of the Olympics in half compared to previous editions.

What is France doing to be more sustainable? ›

The Government led Parliament to pass a “climate energy contribution” on greenhouse gas emissions built into the taxes on petroleum products on a pathway, already adopted by Parliament, set to rise from €56 per tonne of CO2 in 2020 to €100 per tonne of CO2 in 2030.

What is the environmental impact of the Olympics? ›

Previous Olympics have had a dramatic carbon footprint, as well as a dreadful impact on biodiversity. For instance, the last two summer Olympic games where held in Tokyo, Japan and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They released more than 2.7 million and 4.5 million tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere respectively.

What are the environmental issues with hosting the Olympics? ›

Reports estimate that between 90-98% of the snow used at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics was artificial. To produce artificial snow, large quantities of water and energy are needed, and the chemical composition of that snow can alter the environment and ecosystem where it is used.


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