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31st March 2004 from the BBC online
Strike threatens Olympic Projects
Greece's efforts to complete work for this summer's Olympic
Games have been hit by a one-day strike by the country's largest trade union.
Athens was paralysed as thousands of workers took action to push home their demand for an 8% pay rise.
Many building workers involved in construction of Olympic sites stayed at home on Wednesday, while others were trapped in gridlocked traffic.
Olympic venues need to be ready for the start of the Games on 13 August.
The International Olympic Committee has frequently warned that Athens cannot afford to lose even a single day after years of delays.
Only 24 of 38 Olympic venues have so far been completed, and the main stadium is not predicted to be finished until 20 July.
The 16,000 ton, $147m (£80m) glass-and-steel dome over the stadium is still not in place, and the athletics track has not been laid.
Both the building contractors and the Athens Olympic organising committee say they are not concerned about the strike as the time can be made up easily.
Olympic stadium due for completion 20 July
Velodrome due for completion 30 June
Basketball and gymnastics venue: 30 April
Marathon route: 15 June
Athens under pressure
The president of the General Confederation of Labour union (GSEE), Christos Polyzogopoulos, said no further strike action was planned, but warned it would be considered if its demands were not met.
"If these provocative positions are maintained, a conflict will be inevitable, with all its consequences for the country's priorities ahead of the Olympic Games," the union said in a statement.
The GSEE has flatly rejected a pay offer of 3.2% by employers.
Contractors played down the effects of the strike.
"One day will not affect our work. Any delay can be covered with overtime and working on Sundays and holidays," said Dimitris Koutras, of Aktor construction firm.
But the government has already had to scrap several projects that were running late and to scale back others, and builders are working round the clock on key sites.
Denis Oswald, of the International Olympic Committee, said he was confident the strike would not stop Greece being ready for the Games.
"If these strikes would be repeated many times that might create some difficulties," he said.
"As long as they can still compensate with work on Saturdays and Sundays I think it won't be a problem.
"I am personally convinced at the end that everything will be ready on time."
copyright 2004 BBC
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