Thursday, August 12, 2004

Anti-Olympics Rally Honors Dead Workers

Anti-Olympics protesters gathered in central Athens Tuesday to hold an open-air memorial service for 13 workers killed during round-the-clock construction of venues for the games.

About 500 demonstrators stood in silence as the names of the workers were read out and olive wreaths placed on 13 crosses erected outside Greece's parliament three days before the games' start.

"We have paid for the Olympic games in blood," said Andreas Zazopoulos, head of the Communist-backed Greek Construction Workers Union. "All the money spent on the games means our children and grandchildren will have fewer benefits and will be worse off."

Deaths at construction sites have spurred a small but vocal anti-Olympics movement in Athens, adding to anger over massive security measures and commercialism surrounding the world's biggest sporting event.

"People won't forget their problems, no matter how big the party is and how many fireworks are used during the opening ceremony," protest organizer Giorgos Mavrikos said.

Construction crews raced round the clock this year to finish off seriously delayed Olympic venues and infrastructure projects, pushing up the Olympic budget to more than US$7 billion and compromising worker safety, according to protest and human rights groups.

Amnesty International, the human rights watchdog, said the Olympic death toll could be as high as 40.

The late surge of Olympic construction has also raised questions about the future of more than 10,000 immigrant workers - mostly from neighboring Albania - whose contracts are now up.

By The Gladiators posted 12 August 04