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Workers threaten to sue Rio Olympics over unpaid wages

The local organising committee for the 2016 summer Olympic Games is facing legal action from hundreds of staff who claim they have yet to be paid for their work at the event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The Associated Press news agency said those late to be paid include around 100 freelance contractors who worked as stadium announcers, show producers and DJs, and several hundred others who worked for the Olympic News Service, which produced written summaries about the sports and athletes at the Olympics and subsequent Paralympic Games.

Rocky Bester, a South African freelance show producer and spokesman for the 100 contractors, said he’s never experienced such problems at previous Olympics, having worked at six Games in the past. “I'm working with a legal firm that is already representing someone involved with Rio 2016, so they have a pretty good handle what is going on,” Bester told the AP.

“We've had robust conversations at other Olympics about payments, but it's always been an open conversation. What is happening here is that no one is talking back. We're sitting in the dark. We're mushrooms at the moment.”

Rio Olympic officials have blamed the delays on late payments from their own sponsors, the Rio city hall and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). “We are paying, but not all the money we need to have for payments has been received,” Rio 2016 spokesman Mario Andrada said. “We are struggling a bit in making the ends meet.”

Andrada (pictured) said several “first-class international” sponsors owe money to the LOC, but he declined to name them. He added that some of the delays were due to a month-long strike at Brazilian banks, which ended on October 7. Reports that organisers were slow to pay bills created a “herd movement with creditors putting pressure on us,” he said.

Andrada estimated that Rio organisers owed creditors “in the area of R$100m (€28.4m/$31.3m)”. He said the LOC had downsized from 5,000 employees when the Games opened to about 400. The entity will be dissolved next year with only lawyers remaining to settle any disputed claims.