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Organisers suspect 'isolated' sabotage at Athletes' Village

Published:Thursday | July 28, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Tomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, greets athletes in the dining hall after moving into the Olympic village in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, yesterday.


Sabotage by unhappy workers may have caused water and gas leaks and blocked toilets and electrical faults that slowed teams from moving into the Athletes' Village, Rio Olympic organisers said yesterday.

"We are considering isolated cases, but we haven't seen enough to say it was an organised sabotage thing," Rio spokesman Mario Andrada said. He said the most likely cause was what he called "organisational problems".

All 31 buildings at the massive compound for 18,000 athletes and staff were due to be ready at the end of yesterday, with the Games opening in just over a week. Andrada says about 400 of the 3,600 rooms in the complex had defects.

South America's first Games have been plagued by problems, including the Zika virus, severe water pollution, security worries and slow ticket sales. But the slipshod construction is the first problem directly touching many teams and athletes.

Australia refused to check in at Sunday's official opening, setting off public complaints by at least a dozen teams. Those complaints ranged from water dripping from ceilings and walls, the smell of gas, electrical shorts, and stopped-up toilet bowls or no toilet bowls at all.

Andrada described a "wild scramble" last weekend to find 650 plumbers and electricians.

"Imagine, this was on a weekend in Rio," he said. "We called literally all the constructions companies. We literally called every plumber in town."

Rio is a relaxed beach town, where informal dress is normal and the work schedule is negotiable.

"One US official told me the workers were unprepared, working with water on the floor, working with electricity and wearing no protection; wearing flip-flops," Andrada said. "But that's how we live here. Guys work with flip-flops. But the guys are technicians and know how to work."

Brazilian labour inspectors on Wednesday said they would fine the organising committee nearly US$100,000 for hiring workers without proper contracts required by law. It said about 630 workers did not enjoy benefits that protect them from workplace injuries. Andrada said the committee would challenge the fine.