Worker death toll mounting as contractors race to meet Olympic deadline

At least 13 workers have been killed building Olympic venues for the 2004 Summer Games in Athens

The race to get Athens ready for this summer’s Olympic Games is extracting a heavy price from workers, according to a confidential report obtained by The Independent, a U.K.-based newspaper.

The report claims the problems plaguing the construction of many of the venues — fuelled by chronic delays and infighting — have put safety on the backburner and at least 13 workers have been killed and scores more seriously wounded.

“All of these accidents were avoidable,” Giorgos Philiousis, president of the construction workers’ union at the Athens 2004 Olympic Village, told the Independent.. “What’s happened is criminal in the truest sense of the word and it’s been done in the name of profit.”

He said there are three primary reasons for the skyrocketing death toll:

•contractors are pocketing money meant for health and safety;

•unskilled immigrants are operating heavy machinery they’re not properly trained on; and

•workers are simply working too many hours to earn delivery bonuses.

The paper used the case of Manea Marinel, a 32-year-old worker from Romania, as an example of what’s going wrong. Marinel was unhitching a load from an industrial crane when he slipped and was crushed to death.

No proper footwear was giving to Marinel, and he was wearing flip-flop sandals when he was killed.

By comparison, one worker was killed on the job in the construction of venues for the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney.

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