Olympic workers defy court order, stay on strike

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Striking construction workers stayed off the job at the Olympic Park Thursday – the main cluster of venues for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics – defying a court order for them to return.

The work stoppage began a week ago and comes as the International Olympic Committee is sending top-level advisers to Rio to tackle delays threatening South America’s first Olympics.

A statement from Rio Mais, a consortium building venues at Olympic Park, said workers remained on strike. The work stoppage began April 3 and affects at least 2,000 workers.

A regional labor court ordered the strikers back to work on Wednesday and said a settlement should be negotiated in the next 30 days.

The strike centers on a dispute over wages and working conditions.

The website globoesporte.com quoted workers saying they would work at ”a turtle’s pace” and give only ”10 percent effort” if they were forced to return.

There were no hints of violence on Thursday after random gunshots were fired Monday in a run-in between strikers and security guards. No injuries were reported.

The Rio Olympics has been bogged down by late starts and political in-fighting, mirroring many of the delays and confusion surrounding the opening of Brazil’s World Cup in two months.

The chief of staff for Brazil President Dilma Rousseff met Tuesday with Rio organizers, including Carlos Nuzman, head of the organizing committee. The meeting centered on budgets, what branch of government pays and how much.

Brazil will spend a mix of about $15 billion in public and private money for the Olympics. At least $11 billion is going into the World Cup.

IOC President Thomas Bach, speaking in Belek, Turkey, said Rio could ”deliver excellent games if these appropriate actions are being taken now.”

Bach stopped short of ruling out the Olympics might be taken away from Brazil if the delays persist.

Relocating the games would be a last resort and is considered highly improbable at such short notice. However, the possibility is now being raised publicly.

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