Leisure & sport

Community impact

Sports activities providers and customers directly compete with local communities for land, water and air space. Large-scale sports infrastructure projects often violate the human rights of neighbouring communities.   

Infrastructure projects or excursion plans for sports and leisure activities on public land are often developed and constructed without prior consultation with the local population. Moreover, infrastructure related to sports and leisure activities often require space for large numbers of visitors. Related waste and sewage are often not correctly disposed of or recycled, and may lead to pollution of the environment and restrict local communities’ access to natural resources. Furthermore, sports activity offers are often conducted by external providers, from abroad or other communities, thereby taking away potential sources of income from the local population.

For mega sporting events such as World Cups or Olympic Games, large pieces of land for infrastructure and sports grounds are needed. In the past, construction projects for mega sporting events have often been accompanied by serious human rights abuses. Community-related risks particularly concern forced evictions of communities, which are often accompanied by police brutality. There have been reports of “slum clearances” or displacements of homeless people in the framework of city beautification projects, often without prior warning or compensation offers (see cases below). Furthermore, a high proportion of income from such events flows to international companies with local communities only profiting at a low-scale.

In the lead-up to the 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa, the government evicted thousands of people, often those living close to stadiums in informal settlements, destroying their homes without prior notice or offers of compensation. Some people who were displaced, as well as homeless people living in the streets, were moved to temporary shelter cities. The shelters, however, were often in a bad state and lacked adequate sanitary facilities. In the period preceding the World Cup, there were also increased police raids, arbitrary arrests and harassment of informal traders and people on the streets. 

A kitesurfing training centre on Vellai island in Sri Lanka was built without prior consultation with the local fishermen. The centre blocks fishermen’s access to the lagoon during the kite-surfing season and thereby restricts fishermen’s possibilities to make a living. According to the Dark Clouds over the Sunshine Paradise report by the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), the centre lead to conflicts between the owner of the kitesurfing training centre and the local fishermen.

Golf courses in Cyprus restrict access to water for communities and might have negative effects on turtle habitat.

In 2009, the Cypriot Government gave the green light to the construction of 14 new golf courses. The construction of golf courses in Cyprus has been criticized for two main reasons. Firstly, the golf courses use a large amount of water, which is a scarce resource in arid Cyprus. Secondly, some of the golf courses were to be built on valuable agricultural land and one of them close to one of the most important egg laying turtle beaches in Cyprus.

The Sri Lankan Navy offers whale watching activities in two locations. According to the Society for Threatened Peoples’ (STP) report, Dark Clouds over the Sunshine Paradise, the army has taken over a variety of communal tasks since the end of the civil war, and become increasingly involved in activities in the private sector, including tourism.

“The STP considers the military-run tourist facilities and packages extremely problematic because they deprive the local population of an important source of income. Members of the armed forces working in tourism receive their salaries directly from the military department. Thus, the armed forces secure a lucrative additional income in the tourism sector and can provide deals at lower prices than the private sector. The profits made from these tourist deals present a further issue because of the lack of transparency concerning their use.”

A Ski resort built close to the lands of the Mapuche people in Argentina has led to increased occurrence of health ailments in the community. The Mapuche use the downstream water from the Ski resort, which is being increasingly contaminated by the discharge of effluent from the resort.

Only after the local people barricaded access to the resort did it install a sewage plant, resolving some of the community’s water problems. However, snow cannons used by the resort use a lot of water, leading to water shortages for the Mapuche.  

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Take action

Impact assessment

  • Consult local stakeholders and potentially affected rightsholders in the context of an in-depth human rights impact assessment on potential/actual issues related to the sports and leisure activities.

Sector collaboration

  • Get involved in local tourism planning initiatives, raise issues and suggest measures around community impact of tourism development

Find more information on potential measures to take on the "take action" site. 

Learn more

Find more information in the Resource Centre.