Wed, Apr 09, 2014 - Page 18 News List

Workers, guards clash at Rio’s new Olympic Park

Reuters, RIO DE JANEIRO

Workers building Rio de Janeiro’s 2016 Olympic Park fought with security guards on Monday, but although shots were fired no one was injured in the melee, eyewitnesses said.

Scuffles broke out between guards and construction workers on strike for more pay and better union representation.

The workers closed several busy avenues around the site on Monday and then trouble ensued.

Officials said they were examining CCTV footage to identify who fired the shots.

“The confusion took place at the work site and there were protests both there and nearby,” said a witness, who requested anonymity. “Fortunately, no one was hurt.”

The Olympic Park is one of the focal points of Rio’s Olympic Games and is to host judo, basketball, tennis, handball and cycling events at a host of purpose-built facilities.

The international broadcast center and the main media base will also be located in the park, which is being built on the site of Rio’s former Formula One track.

The consortium responsible for the park, which is slated for delivery in the first half of next year, vowed the strike would not affect delivery dates.

However, there is already concern at Rio’s slow pace of work.

Construction workers who were fixing the Joao Havelange Stadium that is due to host the track and field events have also downed tools in protest over working conditions and low wages.

That stadium was built for the 2007 Pan American Games, but was closed in March last year when engineers said the roof could fall down in high winds.

Officials ordered the stadium to be closed and said that work to shore up the structure and repair other problems would not be finished until December this year.

The budget is also a hot topic of concern.

Rio has still to decide who will pay for what and International Olympic Committee officials who visited the city on March 21 said it was crucial that federal, state and municipal authorities put their heads together and make decisions.

However, although officials said that a meeting would take place last month, it is yet to happen.

Brazilian organizers have so far budgeted for 24 of the 52 projects that are to be built for the Games.

Rio won the right to host the summer Olympics in 2009 and is to become the first South American city to host the world’s biggest multi-sport event.

Brazil is also to host soccer’s World Cup in June and July.

However, even though the World Cup is scheduled to start in 65 days, three stadiums are still not ready, and promised public transportation and airports are also way behind schedule or have been abandoned.

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